(Photo from pna.gov.ph)

The Philippine government on Tuesday underscored its commitment to protecting human rights advocates against reprisals during a dialogue focused on strategies to address attacks against HR defenders at the United Nations in Geneva.

“We wish to reaffirm our commitment to combat impunity and ensure accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisals against human rights defenders, including those perpetrated by non-state actors,” said National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Commissioner Gaspar Cayat, who delivered the country’s position at the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights.

Cayat said mechanisms are in place in the country to ensure that policy gaps are addressed, with which “perceived conflicts between business and human rights concerns” are also covered.

He added that a task force has been formed to coordinate a whole-of-nation effort to bring government services to vulnerable or geographically isolated and difficult areas, together with communities and human rights defenders.

“Government services, including redress mechanisms, become available such that reasons to resort to illegal or less-than-ideal means become irrelevant,” he added.

He said the government is one with human rights defenders in protecting the lands or the ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples in the Philippines.

“As an example, the Philippine government in the last two weeks has canceled five certifications issued for forest management agreements covering tens of thousands of hectares for failure to secure the consent of affected indigenous communities,” he said.

He cited a case wherein a cease and desist order was also issued against private businesses for violation of human rights.

“The Philippines is open to engaging with all stakeholders to address their concerns and issues, through various established domestic mechanisms that are well in place,” he said.

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