It has been five years since super-typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) devastated Tacloban City and other communities in Leyte and Samar on November 8, 2013, but it continues to draw attention to this day.
One reason is that government efforts to help and rehabilitate its victims fell short of expectations. Many of the homes that were built for them were never occupied because they were so poorly built. Many of those who lost their houses chose to set up new homes elsewhere in the country.
Three months ago, when cracks appeared in the Otis Bridge in Paco, Manila, and it had to be closed for repairs, a family living under the bridge was found to have originally come from Eastern Samar, which had been forced to move elsewhere when its home was destroyed by a landslide caused by the heavy rains of Yolanda.
Yolanda is again in the news with the new investigation of the Commission on Human Rights on a petition to look into whether 47 coal, oil, and cement companies around th world are endangering the lives and livelihoods of people by contributing to the devastating impacts of climate change through carbon pollution from their products and business activities.
The petition had been filed in 2015 by 14 organizations, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, church leaders, human rights and environment advocates, along with several individuals. A hearing was held this week at the London School of Economics after recent hearings in Manila and New York City, where the 47 international companies named in the petition have offices.
The companies have so far refused to take part in the inquiry, which is said to be part of a worldwide movement to apply pressure on governments and on fossil fuel companies to demand and carry out more ambitious action on climate change. The CHR has no judicial powers but the fact that the CHR accepted the case is “novel and unique” as no other case has ever reached the point it has now reached.
“The whole world is watching,” the legal counsel of the petitioners Zelda Soriano said.“We want them (the companies) to present and convince the petitioners that their investment plans policies, measures, and projects as companies will lead to a just transition to cleaner renewable energy,” she said.
Meanwhile, a new UN report said the ozone layer, which protects the earth from space ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer and crop damage, is beginning to heal. The ozone layer in the north should be repaired by 2030 and in the south by 2060, the report said. Scientists had raised the alarm about the deteriorating ozone layer in the 1970s and countries around the world in 1987 agreed to phase out chemicals from spray cans which had been destroying the ozone layer.
This is the good news in the worldwide effort for a cleaner, greener earth. The Philippine CHR initiative may one day lead to a similar world effort that will help stop the carbon pollution that is causing climate change with its devastating heat waves, its heavy rains, and its powerful typhoons, like super-typhoon Yolanda which hit the Philippines five years ago.