Cebu environmentalists tap youth leaders in fight for climate justice

John Sitchon

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Cebu environmentalists tap youth leaders in fight for climate justice

ADVOCATES. The 8 Sangguniang Kabataan youth leaders will be replicating the Young Environmental Champion program in their own communities to produce more youth champions.

Philippine Earth Justice Center

Eight SK leaders are designated Young Environmental Champions, 'a program designed to empower our youth to take action for mother earth' says the Philippine Earth Justice Center

CEBU, Philippines – The Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), in partnership with the University of Cebu (UC) Office of the Legal Aid, trained 8 Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) youth leaders from different parts of Cebu island to raise awareness for climate justice.

The Cebu-based environmentalist group held its two-day environmental summit with the youth leaders at the University of Cebu, Banilad Campus in Cebu City from Saturday, December 10 to Sunday, December 11.

“The Young Environmental Champion is a program designed to empower our youth to take action for mother earth. This is part of the series of programs in mainstreaming environmental justice,” read their Facebook post.

During the program, environmental advocates and lawyers educated the SK leaders in a series of workshops aimed at developing better youth governance and awareness of climate justice.

The training included environmental policy design, personality development workshops, and program development and implementation.

“When we thought about this project, we wanted to start them young and we wanted to engage with those who are in power or those who have the ability to make change through governance,” John Menguito, PEJC managing trustee said in a press conference on December 11.

Menguito said that they have been reaching out to multiple communities in an effort to help develop environmental programs and laws. 

“Our law students from the UC Office of the Legal Aid would go to the community, partner with them, and help in crafting policies, strengthen the legal capabilities of these communities in protecting their environment,” Menguito said.

One such example is the municipality of Dumanjug whose local government, Menguito said, has taken steps to craft its own environmental code.

According to PEJC, the environmental code would serve as a legal basis for the protection of the locality’s environment and a defense for small communities that are being threatened by big entities who wish to take advantage of the former’s natural resources.

“It’s really the behavioral change that we’re looking for and not just produce advocate that creates tarpaulin programs,” Niña Estenzo, head of PEJC Campaigns said.

Estenzo told Rappler that the youth leaders will replicate PEJC’s training program in their own communities and are expected to produce around 300 Cebuano youth champions for climate justice before the end of 2022.

By the youth, for the youth

Anabel Bontigao, an SK officer from Dumanjug said she wanted to help the young pupils of Tapon Elementary School by introducing better solid waste management.

“There is a dumpsite near the elementary school and constituents throw their waste there. The saddest part is that the area is also where water passes and when floods happen, it hits the school,” Bontigao said in Cebuano.

After the two-day summit, Bontigao shared that she wanted to make a policy with the village where the school is located that would regulate the throwing of waste.

Bontigao believes that if they can’t control the amount of trash, they can always try starting a zero-plastic campaign.

Sustainable programs

Estenzo said that part of the program was to discuss environmental programs that communities can earn from and sustain.

Alzon Ruelo, an SK officer from Mandaue City shared that they have been implementing a garbage collection program that ensures families get food for their segregated waste.

“We have an existing project, called Basura mo, Gulay mo. We collect garbage and in return, we give them vegetables that they can use at home,” Ruelo said

The youth leader explained that they would turn over trash to a nearby waste collection center or a junkshop and use the money from it to fund more environmental programs. “Even if it’s small, it has a huge impact on our society,” Ruelo added. –

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