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Philippines Explores How Oil Companies Violate Human Rights by Causing Climate Change

September 28, 2018

Hoping to attract international attention, a Philippine human rights commission held hearings in New York City this week to address if oil companies have violated human rights by contributing to climate change.

An aerial view of the aftermath of November 2013's devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda locally, in the community of Tacloban, Philippines. Thousands were killed across the country by this powerful storm. Photo: UK Department for International Development, CC

The hearings, held September 27, were demanded by survivors of the Super Typhon Haiyan, which is also known by its local name of Yolanda. Haiyan plowed through the Philippines in November 2013 and killed thousands there. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace joined in the complaint.

Defendants in the hearing included 47 fossil fuel companies. These included BP plc, Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corp, and Royal Dutch Shell plc.

The chairman of the independent human rights commission, Robert Eugenio Cadiz of the Philippines, called the hearings “symbolic”. The commission itself is required by law to look into rights abuses, regardless of who may have caused, if the complaints are credible.

None of the 47 oil companies named in the dispute appeared for the hearing.

During the event, Cadiz took time to interview Brenda Ekwurzel, the lead author of a new study published in Climate Change, an academic journal. That study looked into the contributions of greenhouse gas emissions by both industrialized and developing countries, and how those GHG emissions had influenced climate change.

The Philippines has become the victim of increasingly more powerful storms in recent years. Those storms have been widely blamed on hotter ocean temperatures and other conditions driven  greenhouse-gas-emissions-driven global warming. The archipelago nation with its 22,000 miles of coastline is also already experiencing sea water incursion and damage from rising sea levels in the warming oceans.


Cadiz said he hopes the findings from these hearings could eventually contribute to a new international treaty, one which would enforce respect for human rights by businesses with respect to their impact on climate change.

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