Seeking global attention, Philippines moves human rights probe to New York

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A Philippines human rights commission opened hearings in New York on Thursday into whether oil companies violate human rights by causing climate change, hoping to attract the attention of world leaders meeting at the United Nations.

Survivors of a 2013 typhoon have asked the commission to assess the responsibility of oil companies for man-made global warming, which is linked to extreme weather events such as storms and hurricanes.

Thursday’s hearings, the first time the sessions were held abroad, opened on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly of world leaders.

The complaint, brought by survivors of Typhoon Haiyan which killed thousands of people in 2013 and by more than a dozen organizations such as environmentalists Greenpeace Southeast Asia, names 47 fossil-fuel companies.

The companies include giants Exxon Mobil Corp, Royal Dutch Shell plc, Chevron Corp, Total and BP plc, none of which returned requests for comments.

The hearings were held in an austere business conference room, with an empty seat earmarked for the absent oil company representatives.

The archipelago nation of the Philippines, with about 22,000 miles (36,000 km) of coastline, has been battered by intensifying Pacific Ocean typhoons that cause devastating floods.

In the United States, about 20 climate lawsuits are filed each year, while elsewhere three dozen have been filed in the past 15 years, according to the British-based Business & Human Rights Center.