Maka-Kalikasan, Maki-Mañanita!

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.


Environmental Activism is not Terrorism

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.

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Happy World Environment Day!

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.


Stand with Workers!

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.

Continue reading “Stand with Workers!”

Climate justice now! System change, not climate change!

Climate change is a matter that’s getting out of hand. It is not just an isolated environmental issue but a worldwide crisis that is clamped with the economic system. Mainly caused by industrialization, rampant depletion of natural resources, and exploitation of corporate power, this cataclysm gives rise to adverse consequences that threaten the most vulnerable. At this point, socioeconomic transformations are crucial in every sector to rebuild the global system towards a sustainable future. In light of this, the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) shows strong solidarity with environmental leaders and movements around the world who demand for accountability and justice for those who are responsible for human-induced climate change.

Continue reading “Climate justice now! System change, not climate change!”

Youth climate activists set up donation drive for fishing community affected by COVID-19 quarantine and impacts of climate change

Bacoor, Cavite, 19 April 2020 — A donation drive was held to aid 500 families from the fishing community of Brgy. Maliksi 3, Bacoor, Cavite, by the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), PAMALAKAYA Pilipinas, and Alyansa ng mga Mandaragat sa Bacoor Bay this April 18. “Nutri-lief” packs consisting of vegetables bought directly from farmers in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, as well as rice, were distributed to members of the community amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we call for climate justice, it also means calling for justice for our environment defenders, which include our fisherfolk.” said Mitzi Jonelle Tan, convenor of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines. “Our environment defenders are often the most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, which is also why they so fiercely protect our environment. We’ve seen how multinational companies not only destroy our environment because of greed and plunder, but also commit human rights violations with their plans for so-called ‘development’ just like the numerous reclamation projects along Manila Bay which will only worsen the state of our environment and the state of our fisherfolk.” The fisherfolk from Bacoor, for example, face multiple issues on a day-to-day basis such as warming seas from climate change. The continuous rise in temperature affects their livelihood as the migration patterns of fish shift, resulting in smaller catches. These impacts of climate change are only exacerbated by other problems like reclamation projects threatening to displace them from their homes and uproot their way of livelihood.

Despite these, the fisherfolk of Brgy. Maliksi continue to stand strong against the rising tide of problems thrown their way. “Di kami langaw na oras pitikin ninyo, lalayas. Lalaban at lalaban kami (We are not flies that immediately flee once shooed away. We will continue to fight back each and every time),” said Myrna Candidato, a local fisherfolk leader from Alyansa ng mga Mandaragat sa Bacoor Bay, when asked about the possible threat of displacement from the ongoing reclamation projects.

Now however, with the enhanced community quarantine enforced over Luzon rendering most Filipinos unable to work, the lack of income and the subsequent lack of food presents itself as another pressing concern for the community. “Small fishers bear the brunt of limited fishing operations and post-harvest activities caused by the extended lockdown. Moreover, we are victims of government’s failure and neglect to provide basic necessities and social services to the marginalized sectors whose livelihood are adversely affected by the quarantine.” says Fernando Hicap, the national chairperson of PAMALAKAYA. “Our collective call for a consistent government subsidy seems to fall on deaf ears. In these trying times that our own frontliners for food security and poor Filipino families are struggling to make ends meet, the government is morally and politically obliged to ensure that the wheels of production are running and there is sufficient and affordable food supply.”

YACAP enjoins other organizations and individuals to continue helping the community by donating for the second batch of nutri-lief packs to be distributed this coming Saturday (April 25). For more details, check the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines Facebook page or the YACAP Twitter account (@YACAPhilippines).