The right to a healthy environment is crucial in the enjoyment of all other human rights. Environmental degradation, climate change, and pollution have all been proven to have significant negative impacts on human health, well-being, livelihood, mobility, as well as cultural identity.
Following the capsizing of MT Princess Empress last 28 February 2023, which caused the spillage of 800,000 liters of oil in Oriental Mindoro and other nearby marine protected areas—including 36,000 hectares of coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass—the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomes the swift humanitarian response of various government agencies to affected local communities.
In particular, CHR notes the actions made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) to monitor and develop a potential impact map to assess the overall damage caused by the oil spill; the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in leading the distribution of cash aid and cash-for-work programs for fishermen, vendors and families in Oriental Mindoro; and the Department of Health (DOH) for the provision of urgent medical assistance to residents and hazmat suits for frontline responders.
CHR stresses that an oil spill of this magnitude must be addressed through a whole-of-government approach with a human rights lens. The most vulnerable sectors who face compounding risks should be prioritised in aid and recovery to ensure that no one is left behind.
The Commission also underscores that impacted communities must be encouraged to exercise their right to participation, information, and consultation relative to the spill and its aftermath. This not only enables citizens to take on a more active role in shaping recovery efforts relative to their economic, social and cultural rights, it also allows for the exchange of knowledge and building of trust between them and the government.
Finally, as CHR continues to support the government in their measures to address this unfortunate event, we call on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the oil spill and hold responsible parties accountable for any negligence or misconduct that led to this hazardous incident. We firmly urge our leaders and policymakers to concretise the responsibility of businesses in the context of climate change. In order to prevent similar incidents from taking place in the future, drastic measures in the use of fossil fuels and the strengthened promotion of alternative sources of energy must be pursued.
In that regard, CHR once again offers its recommendations to the government as indicated in our National Inquiry on Climate Change on the just transition to clean energy. We emphasise that in that process, and in accordance with the International Labour Organization Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all, the State must ensure that the transition to an environmentally sustainable economy is equitable and inclusive, guaranteeing decent work, social inclusion and the eradication of poverty for all.###
 National Inquiry on Climate Change (NICC) Report, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP). https://chr.gov.ph/nicc-2/
 International Labour Organization, Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. 2015. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_emp/@emp_ent/documents/publication/wcms_432859.pdf