The Philippines may be one of the worst impacted countries by the climate crisis, but there are many other nations in Asia that are experiencing similar situations. Other countries in Southeast Asia, as well as South Asia, also regularly experience intense rains and typhoons, and similarly have inadequate infrastructure to mitigate the effects of climate change. We also have countries in Asia that are particularly affected by drought, which has implications on their food security as well as human health. With Asia housing more than half of the world’s population, it’s important to highlight the worsening climate situation of the continent.
The upcoming Asia Climate Rally on November 28 intends to amplify the voices, climate concerns, and demands of people all across Asia. In the mass media, Western manifestations of the climate crisis — melting ice caps, starving polar bears — often overshadow the effects of climate change on many other parts of Asia. It should also be noted that the Asian continent is currently the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but this is mainly because of China, Japan, and South Korea which contribute significantly to global emissions. Most Asian countries also suffer the most from the most severe consequences of climate change, such as typhoons, droughts, and rising sea levels.
This situationer sheds light on how Asia’s natural resources are being aggressively exploited, and how this profit-oriented over-extraction (and subsequent overproduction of emissions) has led us to our current situation. It also talks about the Paris Climate Agreement’s efforts to curb the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and its shortcomings as an accord. Lastly, it ends with the youth’s role in preventing the terrible effects of rapid climate change and their demands in this year’s Asia Climate Rally.
The Philippines has been hit by four tropical cyclones in a span of three weeks. Communities are still suffering from loss of homes, livelihoods and lives, amidst the pandemic. This is the terrible reality our country is facing as it lies in the world’s most cyclone-prone area, averaging 20 tropical cyclones each year crossing the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), with about 8 or 9 landfalls .
As observed, for the past years tropical cyclones in the country are becoming more extreme and increasing in frequency. This could be due to rising sea surface temperature of 0.6°–1°C since the 1970sand rising of sea level faster than the global average as a result of climate change. However, climate change may not directly cause a particular storm, but changes mentioned can worsen its impact and hazard posed threatening permanent inundation of communities ill equipped to handle this kind of situation. 
The marginalized, many of whom live in temporary shelters and low-lying areas, are most at risk, lacking the resources to prevent the threat of coastal inundation and storm surge. These concerns are not new to us, yet our government has failed to prepare for the effects of the typhoon, choosing to cancel Project NOAH, defund the budget for calamity funds, and encourage deforestation, mining, and commercialization. Not to mention, Duterte has still no concrete plans for environmental protection after his promise at his first SONA that climate change is his priority. The killing of environmental defenders,logging, and full foreign ownership of large scale mining and geothermal exploration operations persist, destroying our environment and allowing us to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change.
Properties submerged in flood, power outages, and food and water scarcity, are just manifestations of government incompetence and negligence towards the effects of climate change. We should DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY from our government officials in failing to respond in times of calamities urgently and adequately.We must DEMAND CLIMATE ACTION NOW! We should demand our government to declare a climate emergency to take urgent action to solve the climate crisis and hold them liable along with big corporations.
Mga lingkod bayan, tinawag kayong mga lingkod bayan sa iisang dahilan — ang paglingkuran ang bayan at hindi ang kung anupaman. May utang kayo sa bayan.
Kabataan, lumaban kasama ng bayan. Imulat mo ang iyong kamalayan bilang mamamayan.
President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) in an almost two-hour speech where he discussed the country’s situation dealing with COVID-19, endorsed the passage of several priority bills, laid out government achievements, and once again, slammed his critics. And yet again, in the middle of the climate emergency, climate was not part of the president’s agenda in his SONA, despite our country being one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Days prior to SONA, the palace stated that the pandemic plans would be unveiled during his speech. Instead of a clear, concise plan of action for the pandemic, the topics derailed from the supposed details to jabs about “oligarchs” — a confirmation about what was really occupying Duterte’s mind. In addition, he mentioned that he sought the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding the vaccine. At least, the SONA started on time.
While the day-to-day lives of our countrymen continue to suffer, the government still continues to neglect the call of the Filipino people for a concrete and clear plan of action, extended support to our medical frontliners, and an appropriate and prompt response to the medical crisis. We are heading into our fifth month of quarantine lockdown and no significant solution has been introduced to relieve our situation. Marginalized sectors, including our frontline environmental defenders, are the most affected by this pandemic in both the public health and economic perspectives, as multinational corporations continue their business-as-usual practices despite our current situation. This act sadly shows the incompetence of the administration in handling the situation.
We, Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines and other environmental advocates, express our great discontent with the inadequacy of the State of the Nation report.
Our call to the Executive Government Officials
We call on the executive branch for concrete plans to address the continuous increase of COVID-19 cases which will bear great and destructive consequences as the pandemic remains mishandled. Provide budget transparency and unbiased COVID-19 case reporting; the people have the right to be given sound and unadulterated data. Release clear and coherent information to the public to avoid confusion and chaos. Furthermore, acknowledge the pandemic as a national threat to public health and our economy that can be solved through a medical approach, not by meddling with human rights.
We are one with the government in stressing the importance of agriculture but, we cannot protect this prime sector when we continue to destroy biodiversity and manhandle its protectors. We emphasize the need for stringent implementation of people-centric laws and policies governing the preservation of our natural resources, protection of our wildlife and its habitats, and the active participation and security of its defenders. Approve and implement projects that will protect our biodiversity; hinder the approval of land-deteriorating activities. One with the environmental defenders of our country, we call to suspend erring large-scale mining companies and to #SaveManilaBay!
The Philippines must claim its jurisdiction over its islands, water, and territories. We implore your allegiance to the Philippine Constitution to protect her marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone to be accessed and enjoyed by her sons and daughters. The South China Sea West Philippine Sea is ours!
The deadline for our nationally determined contributions (NDCs,) has already passed, but they are nowhere to be found. Our NDCs need to be set as soon as possible with proper consultation with the sectors involved, especially the marginalized sectors. Our NDCs must also keep the welfare of the people in mind.
Finally, we call on our executive officials to take to the international stage and stand for climate justice. With the Philippines experiencing some of the worst impacts of the climate crisis despite its minimal contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, climate justice means that carbon majors owe countries like the Philippines concrete plans of action to greatly reduce their emissions, as well as reparations for the damages brought about by climate change. Our leaders need to take a stronger stance on this issue if we are serious about a new normal for the country.
Our call to the Congress
We call on our legislators to create bills that side with the people and safeguard the environment, now more than ever. Challenge every bill in its form, constitutionality, and technicality and never forget to envision its repercussions on the environment and its inhabitants.
Our current national situation should show, now more than ever, the demand for support for our local scientists, researchers, and inventors. The lack of support is apparent in both the public and private health system, to the allied health professionals and to the general welfare of the public; it is also evident in our lack of science-backed climate policies. We urge the Congress to rethink appropriations of the national budget and adhere to these shortsighted areas that took a pandemic and the climate crisis to be seen.
On the climate front, we ask our legislators to pass a moratorium on coal-fired power plants as the country does its part in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Our gradual shift to renewable energy should also keep in mind the workers who will be affected; a roadmap born out of consultations with and active participation of our workers and other key marginalized sectors to ensure a just transition would also be required as we press forward to the new normal. Last but not the least, our legislators must push for our government to declare a people’s climate emergency, recognizing that issues like the current pandemic are only exacerbated by the impacts of the climate crisis on our country. In the declaration of a climate emergency, our legislators must listen to the Filipino people and ensure that their well-being, particularly that of our environmental defenders, will be of top priority.
The law must serve and protect the people against injustices and inequitable treatment. We appeal to the Congress to take a stand as a co-equal branch of the Executive and Judiciary Department against blatant oppression and abuse; uphold the highest law of the land; sympathize with the people whom you represent and promise to serve. The Terror Law is a threat to our human rights and democracy, and we call on the Congress to repeal the law in the interest of the Filipino people.
Our call to the Judiciary
We call on to our magistrates. This is the best time to show the Filipino people who Lady Justice is, now more than ever. Amplify her attribute to your dear motherland. Interpret and administer the law with integrity, impartiality, fairness, independence, and bravery to guard her democracy.
We implore the Supreme Court Justices’ power to be exercised rightly in allegiance to our constitution to ensure the protection of life and liberty, and the promotion of general welfare of the public. With the numerous petitions against the Terror Law currently being processed by the Supreme Court, we urge you to listen to the very people Lady Justice is supposed to serve.
Junk the Terror Law! Defend the environment, defend the people!
UNITY STATEMENT ON DUTERTE’S 5TH STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
KEY POINTS SUMMARY
Give a concrete and clear plan of action to address the pandemic.
Address the pandemic through a medical approach not through a military approach.
Utilize this opportunity to protect Philippine biodiversity and environment by putting a stop to large-scale mining and reclamation.
Provide support to our local scientists, researchers, and inventors.
Declare a people’s climate emergency in recognition of the current climate crisis.
To the San Miguel Corporation, how dare you claim as one of your values that you are “good neighbors”? The farmers and fisherfolk that are being displaced and harassed by your projects can all attest to this lie. How could you claim to be “advocates of sustainable development,” while planning to set up new coal-fired power plants in the middle of a climate emergency; and when environmental activists have been calling for a moratorium for years now?
Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines is calling out San Miguel Corporation (SMC) for its deplorable harassment and displacement of at least 3,000 residents in four barangays of Sariaya, Quezon to pave way for unsustainable industrial facilities, including a coal-fired power plant.
The livelihood of farmers and fisherfolk in the community has been put at severe risk by SMC’s development projects. Those members of the community who assert their right to stay in and defend their community have reported being “visited” – really, intimidated and threatened – by military personnel at the behest of SMC.
Even in the midst of an ongoing public health and climate emergency, San Miguel Corporation continues to prioritize profit over people’s welfare. Their projects all over the Philippines threaten to displace the defenders of our land and seas. In Quezon in particular, SMC is planning to set up an “industrial zone” for its businesses, including a coal-fired power plant and brewery and livestock facilities.
Our farmers and fisherfolk are constantly pushed aside and put at risk of losing their homes for the benefit of large corporations, under the guise of “development”. This same “development” is what puts not only people in the communities but the environment they live in under threat as well. Coal is a major source of global carbon dioxide emissions, and its continued use only serves to worsen the ongoing climate crisis. Despite this, large corporations like SMC continue to exploit it as a cheap resource and further consumers’ dependence on dirty energy, all to turn a profit.
As the worst effects of climate change begin to manifest around the world, we in the Philippines remain among those most vulnerable to disasters like increased flooding and drought. On top of holding developed, mega-industrial countries and multinational corporations accountable for their major role in greenhouse gas emissions, we should also strive locally to shift away from nonrenewables like coal towards more sustainable sources of energy. It has long been established that these dirty energy sources are not compatible with an ecologically-sustainable future, one where development is achieved without trampling on the people’s rights. Allowing SMC to continue with its intrusive plans sets a dangerous precedent, enabling them to keep investing in unsustainable energy sources. For there to be any truth to their being “good neighbors,” they must junk all current and future environmentally-destructive projects, and make reparations to all those displaced, harassed, or otherwise negatively affected by their relentless profiteering.
We challenge the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to fulfil its mandate of protecting the people’s environmental interests: take a stand against the San Miguel Corporation’s development aggression! Stop all projects that will worsen the state of our environment, in Quezon and beyond! We demand that San Miguel Corporation and the Philippine government stop the harassment of members of the community who simply want to defend their land, the environment, and their people’s welfare!
With the draconian Anti-Terrorism Law just days before taking full effect, large companies and state forces will undoubtedly continue to harass environmental defenders, as they have done countless times in the past, now under the guise of stopping “terror and rebellion”. As youth environmentalists, our call for climate justice must not be separate from the calls and needs of those most affected by the climate emergency. We must continue to seek justice for all victims of environmental destruction at the hands of both foreign multinational companies as well as large local capitalist businesses. We must continue to march to protect the rights of the all marginalized sectors of society and fight alongside them for an environmentally-sustainable future. Let us continue to fight against policies that seek only to curtail our fundamental democratic rights.
Take the fight to the streets. Magkaisa sa SONA| July 27
No more coal, no more oil! Keep the carbon in the soil! #KeepItInTheGround #JunkTerrorLaw
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Photos from Asia Power, Quezon Reels, and San Miguel Corporation Website
Statement by: Maded, Smrz, Mitzi
We demand that the six farmers from Calaca, Batangas arrested with trumped up charges be released immediately. These farmers are our land and environmental defenders at the frontline of our struggle against the coal-fired power plant in Calaca, Batangas.
The locals have long suffered from both environmental and health problems caused by the Calaca coal-fired power plants. The power plants emit toxic ashes through its towers as it falls down and spreads out by wind. Dumps of ashes are also seen in open fields, affecting land, water and air of the community. The residents have been suffering from respiratory problems caused by these toxic materials. In the midst of a health pandemic that attacks the respiratory system, the coal-fired power plants have made locals more prone to sickness.
The struggle against the coal-fired power plant has been a harsh one from the beginning. Fishermen from Calaca named Erning Castellano and Noel Malabanan, who served as the leaders that opposed the construction, were detained by Philippine Constabulary men. Malabanan was shot while Castellano, who was taken, remains missing since 1983. In 2016 and 2018, farmers were accused to be part of the New People’s Army and put on military hitlists.
The struggle continues today with the six farmers dubbed as Calaca 6 arrested last May 10, 2020 enforced by the accusation of government troops and authorities. The arrest happened after locals were raided by the Philippine National Police, Special Weapons and Tactics, the Philippine Airforce, and the Armed Force of the Philippines, including those who weren’t included in the warrant. They sent out a full force team against environmental defenders — farmers that have done nothing but to fight for the environment and their right to till — even accusing them of possessing firearms and explosives through suspected planting of evidence.
As of June 8, Barangay secretary Virgilio Vidals has been released on bail for the trumped up charge of illegal possession of firearms. The other five, farmers who are members of Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Coral ni Lopez (SAMACOLO) remain in jail for the non-bailable trumped up charges of illegal possession of explosives. On June 23, 9 am, the five defenders will be arraigned at Balayan Regional Trial Court.
The Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines strongly condemns the terror-tagging and intimidation of our land and environmental defenders in Calaca, Batangas. We call for the immediate release of #Calaca6. This is not an isolated case. All over the Philippines we have seen how environmental defenders have been intimidated, harassed, and attacked. In order to have a society where climate justice is the new normal, we must call for justice for all environmental defenders who have always been at frontline of the struggle. We challenge the Philippine government to listen to and protect our environmental defenders because they are essential to our society’s development. To the Filipino youth, use your voice to amplify the calls of our farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous people. Unite to #DefendTheDefenders!
We, Filipino environmental defenders, will join the Grand Mañanita on Independence Day to celebrate the growing resistance for our fundamental freedoms.
We join thousands who resolutely demand President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. Its provisions will institutionalize the red-tagging, censorship, warrantless arrests, and other human rights abuses that hundreds of eco-activists have suffered under the current dispensation.
We have been harassed, intimidated, harmed, and even murdered for studying our ecological frontiers, nurturing our natural resources, and protecting our environment, and as a result made this country the most dangerous place for environmental defenders such as indigenous peoples, farmers, and activists. These actions that protect millions of hectares of critical habitat and biodiversity will only face worsened criminalization and other reprisals under the Anti-Terror Act.
As such, we gather to express our strongest indignation with much care for health and safety protocols as much as we care for our planet. We demand from the Duterte administration to focus on addressing serious gaps in their COVID-19 pandemic response and working towards a greener and better normal, instead of prioritizing militaristic responses such as the Anti-Terror Act of 2020.
As climate activists, we must call to #JunkTerrorBillNow! The Philippines is already known to be the most dangerous country in the world for environment defenders, the Anti-Terrorism Bill will only make it easier to encroach upon the rights of our environment defenders and anyone who shows dissent against the government.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020, or HB 6875, was approved on its third reading on June 3; this means it is only a few steps away from being sent to the president for his approval. President Duterte last June 1 also certified this bill as urgent. Among the bill’s most controversial provisions include its overly broad definition of what constitutes as terrorism, so much that even innocent social media posts criticizing the government could potentially be tagged as terrorist acts. Individuals and groups of people can also be put under surveillance for upto 90 days without their knowledge, this includes “tracking down, following, or investigating individuals or organizations; or the tapping, listening, intercepting, and recording of messages, conversations, discussions, spoken or written words, including computer and network surveillance, and other communications.”
Environmental and human rights defenders being tagged as terrorists and subversives, social media posts leading to warrantless arrests — these have all happened even without the Anti-Terrorism Bill in place, all during the span of the lockdown. Our environment and land rights advocates in particular have already been the subject of trumped-up charges, threats, physical attacks, and killings before all this, and we can only expect that the Anti-Terrorism Bill will only make things worse for our environmental frontliners. All forms of activism and dissent are being threatened including climate activism.
We must recognize that the call for climate justice will be silenced even more once this bill pushes through. Climate justice will always be a call for social justice — hand in hand with our fight for the environment, we must also fight for the oppressed and marginalized sectors of our society who bear the brunt of the climate crisis here in our country. In this fight for justice for all, we must be able to hold entities like our government accountable for their actions should these put people’s lives at risk. Having the Anti-Terror Bill with its vague definitions and overreaching provisions can enable the Philippine government to wrongfully equate legitimate criticism (expressed online or on the streets) with terrorism punishable by law, which will have severe repercussions for all forms of social activism and our democracy in general.
Youth climate activists therefore say: junk the Terror Bill now! Activists are not a threat to the Filipino people; in fact, they are integral in the development of any democratic society. We urge the government to instead focus on addressing the needs of the people given the crises we are facing. What the Philippines needs now is a better healthcare system, sustainable livelihood for the working class, and funding for research and development which we will need in combating COVID-19 and climate change.
June 5 was designated as World Environment Day by the United Nations back in 1972 to raise awareness about the challenges our environment is currently facing. Nearly 50 years later, we are celebrating World Environment Day in unprecedented times — in the face of a global pandemic and widespread socio-political turmoil. Now more than ever, we environment and climate advocates must link arms with other sectors of society to fight for a better future together.
Issues of the environment and the climate do not exist in a vacuum; they are influenced by economic and political decisions of world leaders. In turn, these issues impact the day-to-day lives of billions around the world, affecting socioeconomic status, physical health, and various other aspects of people’s lives. If we are genuine about our advocacy for the climate and the environment, we must understand how these various issues are interconnected and why we must take a stand against these problems as well.
In the Philippines, this intersectional crisis is becoming more apparent by the day. For example, our already-poor response to the current COVID-19 pandemic has only been exacerbated by the climate crisis, with our testing capacity affected by the recent Typhoon Ambo. The freedom of expression that is essential to our climate and social activism has been thrown into jeopardy with the imminent passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill. In the middle of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, our frontline environmental and land rights defenders are still experiencing human rights violations and killings in their line of work. Our duty as climate and environment activists here in the Philippines is to see past the seemingly disparate nature of all these issues, to see how they are all connected, and to work towards addressing the root causes of the problems we face today, be it climate change, state fascism, or structural violence.
The environmental struggle cannot be separated from the different struggles happening today. There can be no climate or environmental justice without social justice. Let us continue to stand united in the face of the challenges of our times and reclaim our democratic spaces so we can all take part in building a system that puts people over profit and defends our environment defenders; a society where climate justice is the new normal.
As we recognize the economic and social significance of workers this Labor Day, the Youth Advocates of Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) stands in solidarity with the workers as we call for a just transition that secures the sources of livelihood and ensures the integration of workers’ rights in a new economic system that is in line with promoting a sustainable environment.