19 November 2019, Friday, Geneva Switzerland – The Philippines called today for the strengthening of a normative framework under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention to address the continued use of mines by armed non-state actors.

Signed in 1997, the APMBC, otherwise known as the Mine Ban Treaty, prohibits the use of landmines due to their destructive and indiscriminate effects on civilians and communities. Its states parties meet every year to discuss the treaty’s promotion and implementation. The Philippines ratified the treaty in 2000, two years after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) completed the destruction of its landmines stockpile.

At the 18th Meeting of States Parties (MSP) held virtually from Geneva today, Philippine delegate Jonelle John S. Domingo said the country remains fully committed to the APMBC and its vision of a mine-free world by 2025, “even as we address threats from armed non-state actors that continue to indiscriminately use weapons in violation of [the treaty’s] principles.”

“It is known to the international community that the New People’s Army has continued to use weapons that cause superfluous injuries in its terroristic activities. Its use of improvised explosive devices with anti-personnel characteristics is well-documented,” Domingo explained.

“These include those with anti-handling devices that trigger explosions upon attempt by explosive ordnance disposal teams to defuse them. These devices are intended against first responders and are therefore victim-activated – a clear violation of the principles of this Convention.”

Earlier this year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recovered several anti-personnel landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during several of its operations against the terrorist New People’s Army (NPA), according to reports by the Philippine News Agency. Some of these weapons were placed in areas near civilian communities.

In 2013, Communist Party of the Philippine founding chairman Jose Maria Sison characterized landmines as “the poor man’s weapon.” Civil society have decried this along with other violations by the NPA of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). They point out that aside from being deadly, mines and IEDs deprive communities of their livelihood because they make rural areas unsafe for farming, settlement, and transit.

In addressing the threats of mines and IEDs, the Philippine authorities have adopted an “inclusive whole-of-society approach” that brings together government agencies, civil society groups such as the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines, and community leaders, according to the Philippine delegate. “In several instances, cooperation among communities and authorities have led to successful operations against these destructive weapons,” he said.

The Philippine delegate also expressed support for “global initiatives to address the social and development challenges posed by mines, including through robust international cooperation and assistance” under the APMBC. He also cited Philippine participation in the activities of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center (ARMAC) and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus’ Expert Working Group (EWG) on Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA).

In its engagement with the treaty’s activities, the Philippines has consistently stressed the importance of strong national ownership of mine action, including reducing the affected states’ reliance on foreign technical expertise, and the centrality of mine victims in the treaty’s work on clearance and risk education. The Philippines also champions the balanced participation of women and men in these activities.