MANILA - A climate activist and Typhoon Yolanda survivor spent Monday morning protesting outside a gas company’s headquarters preparatory to an upcoming global "climate strike."
Joanna Sustento, who lost five family members to the typhoon, stood in silence outside the Shell Philippines headquarters in Taguig with a placard bearing the words “Climate Justice.” Accompanying her was musician Nityalila.
After the protest, Sustento told ABS-CBN that she wants to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the effects of climate change, which influence extreme weather events.
“(Nung nangyari ang Yolanda) nawalan ako ng mga magulang, mga kapatid at pamangkin. Ako na lang at kuya ko ang nagsurvive. At hanggang ngayon, hindi pa nakikita yung tatay ko at saka pamangkin ko,” she said. “Iyon ang naging rason kung bakit pinili ko maging climate activist. Kasi hindi ako papayag na yung ibang tao at yung magiging future family ko ay iyon din ang mararanasan.”
(When Yolanda happened, I lost my parents, my siblings and a nephew. Only my brother and I survived. Until now, they haven’t found the bodies of my father and my nephew. That’s the reason why I chose to become a climate activist. I don’t want it to happen again to other people and my future family.)
The burning of fossil fuel such as petroleum contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which is one of the causes of global warming and human-induced climate change.
Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Desiree Llanos Dee said Sustento’s action was a kickoff for the week-long events leading up to the September 20 global climate strike.
It is also part of the group’s calls for fuel and cement companies to be held accountable for greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of climate change. Shell Philippines, along with other companies, are among the “carbon major” companies facing a complaint at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
The complaint was filed at the CHR in 2015, but Sustento said companies such as Shell have yet to appear or respond to the claims.
Llanos Dee said “carbon major” companies continue to profit amid the effects of climate change on the environment and the people.
“Shell needs to realize that business-as-usual isn’t an option anymore and that there is no future with fossil fuels,” Llanos Dee said.
Shell Philippines refused to comment on the issue but told ABS-CBN, “Shell fully acknowledges the right of Greenpeace and others to express their point of view.”
“We only ask that they do so with their safety and the safety of others, including our staff, our partner's personnel and customers in mind,” the company said.
After more than an hour, policemen took Sustento to the nearby police community precinct, initially mentioning possible charges of alarm and scandal.
But at the precinct, the police instead facilitated a meeting between Sustento and the building security.
While there was no representative of Shell, Sustento and Greenpeace will be turning over to the security a letter addressed to the company.
The group said they will be waiting for the CHR’s decision on the complaint, which is set to be announced within the year.
They will also be participating in the simultaneous climate strikes on September 20, which will be followed by the the United Nations Youth Climate Summit and the Climate Action Summit in New York.