NGO Forum wants ADB stripped of immunity from suit

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) must be stripped of its immunity and held liable for all the environmental destruction caused by projects funded under its portfolio, a civil society organization (CSO) umbrella group said Tuesday.

“We have decided to take on the immunity itself which is an outside challenge to the institution,” Rayyan Hassan, executive director of the NGO Forum on ADB, said.

The NGO Forum on Tuesday formally launched its book, “A Visual Testimony of the Asian Development Bank’s 50 Years of Destruction,” in Quezon City.

The immunity of the ADB must be challenged for the Manila-based lender to be able to be held liable for the environmental destruction caused by projects it funded, Hassan noted.

“When the bank does not deliver on its policies, that’s when people get hurt. What are the possible avenues available to you for complaining?” he said, noting that complaints filed against the ADB will be reviewed by the ADB itself.

“Eventually, the very system which has created the problem you are asking for review will review itself” Hassan said.

The ADB reviews take at least nine years, and at times even longer, he added.

ADB’s immunity hinges on bilateral agreements between the lender and the national government of the host country of the projects it intends to finance.

“The institution needs to be immune from the governments with which it will work,” he Hassan said.

The immunity can be removed if the Congress of the host country passes a bill for the purpose, or by an executive order from the President, according the forum.

Given this, it seems as though the NGO Forum on ADB has found an ally in former Environment Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” L. Lopez.

Lopez, who was rejected by the Commission on Appointments as Environment secretary for her radical stand against mining, was among the guests during the forum’s book launch.

Lopez said she was open to working closely with the NGO Forum.

“Wherever we see support and help (we will take it),” Hassan said.

Among the specific issues the NGO Forum and Lopez discussed on Tuesday was the Marcopper Mining disaster in Marinduque.

The drainage tunnels of Marcopper Mining Corp.’s open pit broke in 1996, causing the mine waste leakage to drain into and pollute the Boac River.

“The project is one of the oldest projects in ADB,” Hassan said, noting the lender has put in funds for the project until 1994.

The forum has discussed the issue directly with the ADB, but the bank said since it stopped funding the project, it was no longer connected to the project.

In a separate statement, the bank said the immunity provision is needed for development.

“ADB must be able to exercise its mission in a full and independent manner as mandated by all 67 member countries,” it said.

“Denial of immunity would open the door to divided decisions of courts of different member countries passing judgment on the rules, regulations and decisions of ADB,” it added. – VD/KVD, GMA News

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