#ClimateActionPH: Fighting coal with information drives, social media

MANILA, Philippines – Early this year, residents of Barangay Sawang Calero, Cebu City, were surprised to hear of plans to build a coal-fired power plant near their area.

Concerned citizens such as Sheida Henry wasted no time in fighting the proposal. She launched a Change.org petition versus Ludo Power Corporation, which proposed the plant. She also led locals and non-government organizations (NGOs) to rally against the project.

Recounting the experience during a MovePH workshop, Henry said: “We made a Powerpoint presentation and we went from every barangay block… [to] every chapel. We had a video, I showed them. I asked them what a coal plant is, and you could see the ignorance of the people. I mean, they [didn’t] know what it is all about.

“Every night, we campaigned that we should oppose this. Thankfully, I got my neighbors to listen.”

Henry said they were able to gather 2000 signatures opposing the proposal to operate a 300-megawatts coal-powered plant #ClimateActionPH pic.twitter.com/4ro76obAe7 — Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) November 24, 2016

Thanks to Henry's and the locals' efforts, the Cebu City Council officially junked the proposal last April. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: #ClimateActionPH and Cebu’s battle vs coal)

Education to fight coal

On November 24, Rappler, in partnership with The Climate Reality Project Philippines, conducted a workshop in Cebu City to share lessons learned from Sawang Calero's experience. (LIVE BLOG: #ClimateActionPH Workshop – Cebu)

Henry was a panelist at this workshop, along with Nida Cabrera, Former Cebu City Councilor; Dann Diez of The Climate Reality Project Philippines and Seed4Com; Mayan Quebral, Executive Director for the Oscar M. Lopez Center; Teody Navea, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Cebu Chapter Co-Convenor and SANLAKAS Representative; Ian Rivera, also from PMCJ; and Reuben Muni, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The panel faced an audience of students, youth leaders, advocates, and residents of Brgy. Sawang Calero and other neighboring barangays. (READ: #ClimateActionPH: How one community stopped a coal plant from rising in Cebu City)

They cited information drives as a key instrument in the fight against coal. While campaigning against the Ludo Power Corporation proposal, Henry personally went from one block to another to speak to her neighbors about the effects of having a coal plant near their homes. Cebu- and Manila-based NGOs backed the cause online by publishing materials on coal’s impact on the environment and people’s health.

According to Muni, Greenpeace and other environmental organizations recognized that Henry's campaign can serve as an example for other communities. “Malaki ‘yung role ng panalo dito sa Cebu... nakita namin na strategic ‘yung role ng Cebu sa national campaign against coal. Nag-usap usap kami na hindi pwedeng matalo tayo dito,” he said. (Cebu's win played a big role. We saw its strategic role in the national campaign against coal. We agreed that we couldn't lose.)

Muni added that had the project pushed through, it would be the first coal-fired power plant built in the heart of a bustling city. 

So ito maglalagay ka ng coal plant sa isang highly urbanized area. Ano ‘yung magiging impacts nito, not only in the environment but also in terms of public health?” he said. (You're putting a coal plant in a highly urbanized area. Can you imagine its impact not only in the environment, but also in terms of public health?)

Maximizing social media

During the workshop, participants learned about the power of social media in amplifying advocacies. Online, word of mouth about Sawang Calero's fight against coal spread faster, which influenced more people to support the cause.

As another example, MovePH editor Voltaire Tupaz also shared the success of #NowPH, the National Youth Commission’s (NYC) anti-climate change advocacy initiative. The campaign, which was launched in partnership with MovePH, garnered over 3 million pledges from Filipino youth who want to take part in reducing the Philippines' carbon emissions. (READ: 3 million Filipino voices heard at #COP21 in Paris)

Tupaz: One of the gains of the #NowPH campaign is the declaration of national day for youth in climate action on Nov 25 #ClimateActionPH — Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) November 24, 2016

To inspire the audience to promote their own advocacies, MovePH Social Media Producer Raisa Serafica shared best practices on using digital platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Rappler X.

How to use social media to build awareness for climate advocacy. @MovePH 's @raisaserafica presents in Cebu #ClimateActionPH pic.twitter.com/OKBcn208O9 — Ryan Macasero (@ryanmacasero) November 24, 2016

The day-long #ClimateActionPH workshop ended with the participants proposing concrete ways to fight coal. – Rappler.com