Just recently, on Jan. 19, 2015, nine construction workers, including a child laborer, were killed when a wall in the warehouse that they were building collapsed in Guiguinto, Bulacan. There have been many other cases where workers died because of allegedly poor and unsafe workplace conditions. This is on top of low wages, lack of health and social security benefits, and insecurity of tenure that exacerbate the economic inequality in the country.
Meanwhile, communities and families have been displaced, workers denied of their rights, the environment threatened, and in some cases, the right to ancestral domain of indigenous peoples have been violated in the course of regular business operations of local and multinational companies in the country.
These things happen despite the existence of national policies, international human rights laws, and standards including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that mandate states and business entities to respect and protect human rights and provide remedies when these rights are violated.
It is important, then, to review existing laws and their implementation in order to know whether they are enough or lacking in terms of protecting the human rights of everyone affected by business practices—whether they are participants in the operations or are affected because of their presence in or proximity to the location of businesses. It is also important to urge businesses to integrate human rights standards into their daily operations and not merely relegate them to ‘special projects’ within the ambit of corporate social responsibility.
Our country’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda reinforces the need to improve our efforts to uplift the lives of all Filipinos and narrow the gap between the rich and poor by making sure that the pursuit of economic development does not compromise the rights of people.
This call also becomes more imperative as the country prepares for ASEAN economic integration, as economic liberalization makes labor markets vulnerable to exploitation and eases restrictions on the movement of goods and people.
PLCPD firmly believes that development should never be at the expense of human rights. The government and the business sector, together with civil society, the media, and all stakeholders, should work closely together in ensuring that human rights of all are consistently respected, protected, and fulfilled.