The National Capital Region (NCR) chapter of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), the Philippine chapter of the international Fridays for Future movement sparked by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, held a creative protest action at the Manila Bay dolomite beach along Roxas Boulevard, calling out government inaction in the face of multiple issues such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are tired of all the lies and inaction,” said Xian Guevarra, YACAP national coordinator and Quezon City local. “Whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic, or the climate crisis, or environmental protection of places like Manila Bay, the answer of our government has remained the same: policies and measures that are harmful for both the people and the planet.”
The protest action in Manila was held simultaneously with other youth-led mobilizations across the Philippines, adding up to hundreds of strikers across the country, and across the world, all in line with the Global Climate Strike set this September 24 by the international Fridays for Future movement. The NCR action focused mainly on the issue of adaptation — namely, how the Philippine government should prioritize measures that would protect the Filipino people from the impacts of climate change. Youth activists from across NCR collaborated with nearby fishing communities and other local communities impacted by illegal coal dumping for their action.
“Centuries of the biggest polluters choosing profit over the people and the planet has brought us to where we are right now with global warming and climate change,” said Yanna Mallari, regional coordinator of YACAP’s NCR chapter and high school student based in Parañaque. “Now, we strike in an area that will likely be underwater before I even turn 50. Those are the kinds of challenges my generation is facing. We are here to call for action and inclusive adaptation policies that prioritize people and planet.”
The action featured a giant plant monster of President Duterte, which had roots entangled with the flags of China and the United States of America. In line with the global theme of “Uproot the System,” the Filipino activists symbolically uprooted the Duterte plant monster during the program.
“The climate crisis isn’t just an environmental problem caused by carbon dioxide emissions. It is a systemic problem that stems from the foreign plunder of our resources and the greed of developed countries, especially countries like the US, which is historically the biggest emitter, and China, currently the biggest emitter,” said Mitzi Jonelle Tan, YACAP international spokesperson, who is based in Marikina City.
YACAP pointed out that despite President Duterte’s calls to action on climate change in his recent United Nations General Assembly speech, the policies of the current administration tell a different story. They assert that the government’s mitigation policies are short-sighted at best, and genuine adaptation measures are hardly ever discussed.
“If Duterte was true to his words about demanding accountability from the Global North, he would put a stop to the destructive projects and policies often by foreign entities, and have the political will to stand up to these countries. He has continuously allowed and even encouraged environmentally destructive projects that harm people and their livelihoods,” continued Tan. “The complete disregard for the environment and the most marginalized in times of disaster and with the COVID pandemic is not the adaptation we need. We need people-centered climate adaptation and policies and we need a leader who can actually stand up to the biggest polluters and walk their talk.”
The program ended in front of the Manila Bay dolomite beach, where protesters staged a banner drop and echoed their calls for people-centered climate adaptation. #