Transport group PISTON met with a United Nations special rapporteur on Tuesday to express its concerns about the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) and to propose a pro-people just transition for public transport in the Philippines.
PISTON, along with environmental groups and other civil society organizations, was invited to a courtesy meeting by Ian Fry, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion of human rights in the context of climate change, during his ten-day visit to the country to examine climate change-related displacements and human rights issues.
PISTON raised its objections to the implementation of the PUVMP, one of the decarbonization policies the Philippine government has initiated as part of the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The agreement, signed by 196 nations, compels signatories to implement measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Philippines ratified the Paris Agreement in 2017 under former President Rodrigo Duterte.
The group informed Fry that the current PUVMP is a misguided solution to the climate crisis that lacks concrete and comprehensive measures to ensure that no transport worker is left behind in the transition to low-carbon vehicles.
The PUVMP has faced criticism for prioritizing profit generation for both multinational vehicle suppliers and large local transport service corporations due to its reliance on vehicle imports and its franchise consolidation component.
Proposing a pro-people just transition in public transport, the group told Fry that such a program must guarantee genuine participation and social dialogues with affected sectors, implement people-centered and human rights-based climate change mitigation measures, provide decent work for all, establish democratic control of public transport, and promote national industrialization to support local industries in producing affordable and sustainable public transport instead of relying on importation.
PISTON also recommended that a pro-people just transition be incorporated into the Philippines’ NDC and national legislation. They also called for a new UN General Assembly resolution recognizing just transition as a fundamental human right.
According to PISTON, employing a human rights-based approach to addressing climate change is essential to ensuring a just transition for workers and communities and to adequately allocate resources for the shift towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient public transport and society.
The group also stated that to effectively address the climate crisis, it is crucial to tackle existing inequalities that are only being exacerbated by policies like the PUVMP, which attempts to address an emissions problem but leaves behind the most vulnerable and at-risk: workers and communities.