MANILA, Philippines – Students, youth leaders, and advocates took to the streets across the country on Friday, May 24, as they demanded the government to take urgent action on environmental problems that the country faces today.
They took action in solidarity with youth groups all over the world who initiated the global movement Youth Strike for Climate in staging a strike against climate change inaction and to demand for climate justice. (READ: ‘No Planet B’: Tens of thousands join global youth demo for climate)
Hoping to make a united stand, advocates held the strike in 15 cities in the Philippines to amplify the call to action on environmental issues affecting their respective areas.
In Metro Manila, young ecological justice advocates gathered in Morayta, España, and the Mendiola Peace Arch to urge political leaders and Filipinos to take action on climate issues.
They asked city officials to reject the construction of a gym at Arroceros Park – a 2.2 hectare park that is home to to over 3,000 trees of 61 varieties, and 8,000 ornamental plants. It has been dubbed as the “last lung of Manila City.”
Aside from the possible construction at Arroceros Park, the groups also appealed to politicians to oppose the Manila Bay reclamation, cancel the Kaliwa Dam project, protect and preserve the Quezon Memorial Circle, and introduce a sustainable mass transport system.
Acknowledging that climate action can also stem from the people, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago challenged the youth to resist plans and proposals made by the government that could greatly affect the environment. (READ: Forest rangers of Freedom Island fight losing battle vs plastic pollution)
“Ang boses na ito sa lansangan na naipakita natin ngayong araw, ay kinakailangang makarating sa may kapangyarihan. Hindi lang sa Malacañang, sa Kongreso – ang boses nating ito ay kinakailangan makarating sa tunay na may kapangyarihan, at ‘yan po ang taumbayan,” Elago said.
(The voice of those in the streets today must reach those who are in power. Not only in Malacañang, in Congress but [our voice] must reach the ones who hold real power, and that is the people.)
Ecological Justice League of Youth Leaders (EJL) Convenor Avril de Torres said that the youth will continue to fight until their demands for climate and ecological justice turn into policies and actions.
“Unlike the government, we will not be bogged down by flimsy excuses and the demands of rich companies and foreign powers. The youth recognizes that this is a matter of life and death. We hope our government sees this too,” De Torres said in a statement.
Jefferson Estela, lead organizer of Youth Strike for Climate PH, said the youth played an important role in strengthening and realizing advocacies that can help further society.
“The youth of today know what they are doing. Many of my colleagues are giving their time in environmental advocacies and causes: helping each different community, reaching the most vulnerable, underrepresented, and the voiceless,” Estela said.
Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH) in Bacolod City kicked off the discussion through an interactive community event called Istorya Klima at the Bacolod Public Plaza, discussing environmental issues in compelling and innovative ways such as through art, music, and storytelling.
Krishna Ariola of Y4CH said that the strike showed the need for the public to rise up as one and demand drastic climate action from the government.
“A strong collective movement has to keep the pressure on the government and hold the decision-makers accountable, and the youth is more than ready to man the frontlines,” Ariola said in a statement.
It was through Y4CH that the youth of Negros Occidental triumphed in their fight against the use of coal as an energy source in the province. (READ: The youth of coal-free Negros Occidental)
In Tacloban City, the Youth Leaders for Environmental Action Federation (YLEAF) called for climate justice and environmental preservation.
Alongside with 6 national demands proposed by Youth Strike for Climate Philippines (YS4C), YLEAF co-founder KC Bacolod also urged the local, national and international leaders to act on climate change through the creation and strict implementation of envrionment-friendly policies and ordinances.
“We must do more than just clean up drives and tree-planting. We need to create sustainable solutions to help the environment, and we can strengthen this call if the government is involved,” YLEAF co-founder Ronan Renz Napoto said.
Tacloban City, experienced climate vulnerability back in 2013, when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated Eastern Visayas. In connection with this, the youth also expressed their willingness to work together with the local government to protect the environment.
Bacolod read a letter for a signature campaign before the Tacloban youth, where they pledged their essential role in nation-building. The letter was later on forwarded to the office of Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin.
Yaokasin said that he was proud of the youth for actively participating in environmental campaigns. He als said he was looking forward to working with the group and promised to look into the ways he could help in their advocacy.
As part of the climate strike in Iloilo, local art group Pugad organized an art workshop and spearheaded collaborative art for the youth themed KKK, or “Kay-uhon ang Kahimtangan sang Kalibutan (Fix the current state of the world).”
The youth strike for climate was also held in Ilocos Norte, Pampanga, Bulacan, Dumaguete, General Santos, Koronadal City, Davao, Cebu, San Carlos, South Cotabato, and Antipolo City. – with reports from Cherline Trajano, Carl Don Berwin, Clifford Colibao, Joey Baldonado/Rappler.com