MANILA- “We are unstoppable, a better world is possible!”
Filipino youths chanted as they marched in a lantern parade calling for climate justice in the streets of Manila, early this evening.
Dubbed the “Global Climate Strike: Pailaw sa Kalikasan,” the Christmas-themed activity is part of the coordinated actions held worldwide on Nov. 29. Some 300 young professionals and students, many in the thick of exams and school activities, and including some from Catholic schools, joined the Manila march.
The Nov. 29 action was timed before the Conference of Parties of the United Nations climate conference starting Dec. 2, to be held in Spain. Called Global Climate Strike, and also School Strike for Climate and Fridays for Future, these youth-led mass actions gained strength this year inspired by 17-year-old Swedish climate crusader, Greta Thunberg.
“It is time to ask, to criticize our current development design. Is it development if it destroys the environment?” said Kyle Atienza of FEU Global Climate Strike. The United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report estimated only 11 years are left to stop the irreversible damage from climate change.
The Manila climate strike, spearheaded by the broad environmentalist alliance, Youth Advocates for Climate Action in the Philippines (YACAP) took off from Plaza Miranda in Quiapo and marched to Liwasang Bonifacio. Other lead environmental groups were Agham Youth, Greenpeace Philippines, 350 Pilipinas and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. At least 30 organizations and 10 schools joined the activity.
The gathering, appropriately held at the plaza honoring the Father of Philippine Revolution, Andres Bonifacio, also coincided on the eve of his 156th birthday on Nov. 30. Bonifacio led the revolt against the Spanish colonizers. He continues to inspire present-day activists in the fight against the biggest neocolonial powers in the Philippines, the US and China, also the biggest polluters in the world.
Among the strikers were Lumad students of the Save our Schools Network, some of whom were from Davao del Norte where the mineral-rich Pantaron Mountain Range is threatened by the entry of destructive mining.
“Climate change magnifies the vulnerability of the marginalized sectors,” said Chuck Baclagon of 350 Pilipinas, as exemplified by the impact of Typhoon Yolanda on Philippine communities in the Visayas. He said the youths are showing leadership amid the absence of government action to reduce carbon emissions and to make the biggest polluters accountable.
Gia Glarino of Kalikasan noted that amid the worsening effects of climate change, in the Philippines, the government pushes projects that contribute to the destruction, such as the Kaliwa-Kanan-Laiban dam, the Aerotropolis or “airport city” to be built in the coastal communities of Bulacan and the reclamation of Manila Bay.
President Duterte even inaugurated new coal-fired power plants, the latest of which was in Sarangani, Glarino said. She also cited the continued operations of the mining company OceanaGold, in spite of its expired financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA). The company’s operations were halted only recently because of the barricades put up by protesting indigenous and farmer communities.
We are at the heart of darkness, at the eve of the destruction of our home, said Mitzi Tan, YACAP spokesperson. “But we, the youth, are the hope amid the gloom, we will shine light against the shadows.”
“Kabataan, yakapin ang pagiging ilaw sa gitna ng krisis at kadiliman,” said Tan.