The youth behind coal-free Negros Occidental
BACOLOD, Philippines – In Negros Occidental, the young generation triumphed in their fight against the use of coal as a source of energy in the province.
Negrosanon youth banded together in a strike against coal in front of the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol last March 6. Dubbed the "Youth Strike for Negros," it was a silent protest that prompted Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr to declare Negros Occidental coal-free.
Marañon signed an executive order that prohibits the entry of coal-fired power plants in the province. He also ordered the creation of the Provincial Renewable Energy Council to formulate measures encouraging renewable energy programs.
Behind the important fight against coal in Negros Occidental is Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH), a coalition of youth organizations and concerned individuals based in Bacolod City.
Y4CH has initiated several events and activities that focus on climate change, climate justice, and renewable energy, including the March 6 protest.
"We are critical of the systems surrounding climate action, but we aim to do more than calling for accountability or passing the blame – we hope to be a part of building the future we want, and we offer proactive solutions along with our public actions," Y4CH convenor Krishna Ariola said.
"People say it's pointless to do anything, but we disagree. There is so much we can do if we all do it together," she added.
Among these proactive solutions are plans of the group to launch awareness campaigns on renewable energy.
Aiming to equip young people with basic knowledge of climate action, Y4CH will be conducting several programs, to be introduced as "R.E.learn" and "R.E.treat." The former will focus on teaching the youth through talks and forums, while the latter will center on modularized camps.
The decision to banish coal, Ariola also said, is long overdue.
"Negros is an island of success stories: from the organic ordinance, environmental efforts, and clean energy sources, we will make sure that Negros continues its legacy of environmental protection. We see Negros as a true renewable energy hub of the Philippines in the near future," she added.
Y4CH has been working closely with other youth groups in Negros, specifically in Bacolod City, whose visions are similar to theirs. Making use of available platforms such as Facebook, the coalition amplifies its call for volunteers in order to expand its circles.
"We also hold small capability-building activities within the group, to make sure everyone is educated and aware about what we're fighting for. We also have good relations with other environmental groups, youth groups, and the Church," Ariola said.
According to Claudia Gancayco, a member of Y4CH, their aim is to campaign on a positive note, hence the emphasis on hope.
"We want the youth to be hopeful that although the science and the news sound bleak, we want the youth to have a hopeful approach because there is still something that can be done. We want to underscore that fact since if we don't, it's so easy to lose hope," she said.
Asked why Y4CH does what it does, Ariola said the coalition's mission is rooted in basic humanity.
She said: "I think environmentalism is not just for the environmentalist, but it's for everyone.... It's only a matter of time until everyone joins the fight for survival. Clean air and a balanced ecology are basic human rights, and we will do our best to protect those rights, especially in our communities." – Rappler.com
Chad Martin Natividad is a 4th year AB Psychology student at University of St La Salle (USLS) Bacolod and a Rappler Mover. He was previously magazine editor and literary editor of The Spectrum, the official student media corps of USLS, and is currently its editorial assistant.
Maria Angeline Mayor is a 4th year AB Communication student at USLS Bacolod and a Rappler Mover. She is also a news writer of The Spectrum.