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PH CSO Statement re: ADB’s Draft Environmental and Social Framework (ESF)

Photo by Red Sierra

CSOs from the Philippines monitoring the Asian Development Bank (ADB) vehemently reject the draft safeguards policy proposed by the Bank. This document, ostensibly aimed at enhancing environmental and social protections, falls woefully short of addressing critical concerns raised by civil society organizations and affected communities.

While the creation of the ADB Office of Safeguards is presented as progress, it remains unclear how this new entity will effectively tailor safeguard measures to sovereign and non-sovereign operations. Furthermore, the draft policy lacks teeth in ensuring that remedy costs are borne by the ADB itself, rather than burdening borrowing countries or companies with additional loans.

Despite the ADB's claims of extensive consultations, these engagements lack substance. While thousands may have been engaged, the ADB fails to transparently disclose how CSO demands have been integrated into the policy, rendering these consultations tokenistic at best.

The draft policy's approach to addressing harm caused by projects is alarmingly vague, with inadequate provisions for identifying and mitigating impacts on affected communities. Furthermore, the proposed updates to the institution’s safeguards policy fail to incorporate a clear and robust mitigation hierarchy, without any clear prioritization first and foremost to avoid harm, minimize risks of harm, and commit to compensation measures in project planning and implementation when harms do arise. This omission exacerbates the risk of irreversible harm and damage to those living and working in and around project sites and the surrounding ecosystems, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive, binding safeguards that prioritize the prevention of harm followed by requiring steps to mitigate any damaging consequences for affected communities, workers and planetary commons.

Furthermore, the ADB's proposed safeguards on pollution prevention and resource efficiency are grossly insufficient, lacking concrete measures to address hazardous waste management and phase out harmful practices such as thermal waste-to-energy projects.

Inadequate protections for Indigenous Peoples, insufficient measures to safeguard cultural heritage, and a lack of gender considerations further underscore the policy's deficiencies.

The proposed safeguards policy by the ADB is a disservice to the very communities it claims to protect and the environment it purports to preserve. The collective rejection of this draft policy underscores the urgent need for substantive revisions that prioritize the rights, well-being, and dignity of all individuals impacted by ADB projects.

The time for half-measures and token consultations is over. Philippine CSOs demand a robust safeguards framework that holds the ADB and its partners accountable for their actions, ensures full transparency and meaningful participation, and unequivocally prioritizes environmental sustainability and social justice.

Read press statement here.


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