climateNot too many people know that an international meeting was held here in the Philippines in the last three days to discuss and find solutions to the worsening state of our rivers. There were no farmers, urban poor, workers, fisherfolk, indigenous people and many other grassroots communities in the halls of the Marikina City Convention Center where government hosted the 2nd International River Summit, nor were there spaces provided for those very sectors whose daily survival is threatened by the increasing destruction of our water resources. Instead, tellingly, the summit made room for representatives of financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Eximbank and sectors of big business and industry, whose policy directions and actions have been shown to be most damaging to the environment and proven to violate the rights of people to water and to sustainable development.
Rivers are essential to all life. They have nourished us through the centuries in all the dimensions that we consider vital, by providing our physical requirements for food and water as well as sustaining us culturally and spiritually. Many rural women’s subsistence activities revolve around rivers. However, river systems and environmental resources as a whole have increasingly been degraded and are now under threat because of an economic paradigm that runs on the relentless exploitation of natural resources, with no regard for people or the environment. Because of widespread forest denudation spurred by large-scale mining and logging, there is greater river runoff, causing both the loss of vital soil nutrients for upland communities as well as the inundation of communities and cities downstream. The Philippines now ranks among the top five countries facing the highest climate threats, specifically through heavy flooding.

From the outcomes of the last summit, and how this second summit has similarly accorded significant policy-input opportunities to international financial institutions, banks, and corporations, we fear that it will be business-as-usual. This means, for one, continuing to pin the blame on small rural and urban poor communities for our increasingly endangered environment, when in truth, corporations and extractive industries have the most to account for the loss of our resources, including vital river systems. It means that while government sinks in huge public money into river clean-ups and reforestation programs, it enables through its policies, those profit-seeking investments of foreign firms as well as local wealthy elites that destroy our environment, violate our people’s rights and compromise our very future in a climate-challenged world. It also means the pursuit by government of neoliberal directions that commoditize everything for selling and trading in the market, including the precious benefits of river systems to humankind.

We, people’s organizations and movements, in the face of the many threats to our lives and survival, stand by our calls to –

• Protect the Filipino people’s rights and interests, specifically by upholding the right to water for basic needs and recognizing water as part of the commons;
• Resist the privatization and commodification of water, and corporate control over water resources;
• Push for democratic and sustainable control, use and management of water resources and services;
• Address in participatory, equitable ways, the impacts of climate change on water resources and peoples’ access to water;
• Oppose the policy pressures and dictates of international financial institutions and other international bodies for the privatization and commodification of water resources;
• Uphold the rights and role of women in water services and management of water resources.

No to corporate and elite capture of our river systems! Our rivers are not for sale!
Rivers for people, communities and the climate! World Bank and ADB out of our rivers, out of our lives!

GITIB/Our Rivers, Our Lives-Philippines
Freedom from Debt Coalition Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD)

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