We, the organisations named below, make this statement to express our serious alarm about the widespread arbitrary arrests of children taking place throughout the Philippines under the ‘Oplan Tambay’ project of the Philippine government.
We note that President Duterte issued a directive that children found loitering be arrested for their protection, even if they have not committed any crime.(1) We further note that in the execution of Oplan Tambay in Cebu Province, minors violating curfew ordinances have been the largest group arrested.(2) We note that in the City of Manila, there is a drive to achieve ‘zero street children’ which is leading to large numbers of children being arbitrarily removed from public spaces.(3)
A local legal research and policy advocacy group working for the protection of indigenous peoples and local communities urged the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to reconsider funding authoritarian regimes who do not tolerate civil-society groups, noting that some of the massive infrastructure projects funded by the multilateral lender have historically impacted on the lives of indigenous and poor upland communities.
Legal Right and Natural Resources Center/Friends of the Earth Philippines Executive Director Norly Grace Mercado also stated the need for a meaningful consultation between the civil-society groups, specifically the marginalized and the ADB.
“Also in our analysis, we said that transportation and infrastructure have been directed in massive superhighways ports and airports. [Such] megastructures sometimes span several regions [that] cut across key biodiversity areas and culturally important heritage sites or indigenous territories and ancestral domain,” she said, adding that the ADB had also admitted that around half of the total number of public-sector loans projects funded by the bank inflicted involuntary displacement of communities.
The ADB, Mercado added, also failed to consider among its proposed strategic priorities one important worsening trend in the region, which is shrinking democratic space for civil-society organizations and communities.
“This is evident in the growing incidence of human-rights violations, which results to chilling effect in terms of communities in civil-society groups,” she said.
Mercado also urged the ADB not to only focus on infrastructure but, more important, on governance and in pushing for the environmental and social safeguards, which will give way to ensure a sustainable and inclusive growth that will consider social justice and human rights.
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