Climate and Environment

House bill seeks to offer protections for climate migrants

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
House bill seeks to offer protections for climate migrants
The South Pacific pounds the serpentine coastline of Funafuti Atoll, 19 February 2004, home to nearly half of Tuvalu's entire population of 11,500, as king tides threaten to inundate the tiny island nation. Tuvaluans fear that climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with king tides and cyclones, will render their Polynesian archipelago uninhabitable.
AFP/Torsten Blackwood

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers from the House of Representatives filed a bill that could establish the Philippines as a haven for people displaced by the climate crisis.

House Bill 10490, which was filed on Monday, proposes granting special protections to environmental or climate migrants, especially those from low-lying island nations in the Pacific most vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather events. 

The bill, if passed, would mark a significant step toward addressing displacements as a result of climate change and positioning the Philippines as a leader in advocating for the rights of climate refugees. 

The proposed legislation seeks to create a new paragraph in the Philippine Immigration Act, authorizing the president to admit foreign nationals who are seeking refuge from climate-induced threats. 

“He (president) may also admit aliens who are environmental migrants from the small island developing states in the Pacific, who seek protection from climate change-related harm, in such classes of cases and under such conditions as he may prescribe,” the proposed paragraph read. 

Climate change—with its destructive cyclones, brutal droughts, and rising seas—is threatening to erase some Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from the map. 

Humanitarian legacy

The bill was filed by Reps. Edcel Lagman Sr. (Albay, 1st District), Pablo John Garcia (Cebu, 3rd District), Ziaur-Rahman Alonto-Adiong (Lanao del Sur, 1st District), Samuel Versoza Jr. (Tutok To Win Party-list), and Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao del Norte, 2nd District).

“As a nation that has historically opened its doors to refugees, we must recognize and respond to the new challenges posed by climate change,” Adiong said. 

The bill’s explanatory note cited the admission of thousands of Jews during the Quezon administration, Russians during the Quirino administration, and Indo-Chinese during the Marcos Jr. administration.

Of the 46.9 million new internal displacements registered in 2023, 56% were triggered by disasters such as floods, cyclones, wildfires, according to a 2024 report of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. 

Without early and concerted climate and development action, the World Bank warned that 216 million people could be forced to become internal climate migrants by 2050. 

“This legislation is a testament to our commitment to upholding human rights and our international responsibility. It is a proactive measure that not only addresses the immediate needs of climate refugees but also sets a precedent for global responses to similar crises,” Versoza said. 

The Philippines is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such strong cyclones that cause floods and landslides, rising sea levels and higher temperatures.

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