PH groups to join global climate strike, hold lantern parade ahead of climate negotiations

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 28 2019 06:07 PM | Updated as of Nov 28 2019 06:45 PM

Philippine civil society and environmental groups will be holding protests and a lantern parade on Friday to urge government to declare a climate emergency in the country.

It will coincide with the global climate strikes being organized by groups like Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future. The November 29 strike will be calling on leaders to announce substantial action during climate negotiations to be held in Madrid, Spain from December 2 to 13.

“It’s like a wakeup call for governments and corporations. We’re trying to get their attention and more than that, we’re trying to imbue them with a sense of urgency that they need to act fast, now and with great ambition. Not just token actions,” Lidy Nacpil of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development told ABS-CBN News on Thursday.

Nacpil said what the Philippine government is doing “is still far, far short of what is necessary,” especially when it comes to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead of making plans to phase out coal-fired power plants, the country’s energy companies are set to expand their coal portfolio in the coming years.

“Dapat i-phase down na nila nang mas mabilis (They should phase it out faster),” she said. “Ang electricity na galing sa solar at wind power mas mura na ngayon (Electricity from solar and wind power is now cheaper).”

She said using renewable energy is better than using coal, which is one of the major causes of climate change.

Ian Rivera, national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, said it is alarming how the climate crisis is worsening with global warming and the melting of polar ice caps progressing at a faster rate.

“Masyado nang matindi ang concentration ng greenhouse gas sa ating atmosphere. Kaya kahit na ang Pilipinas napakaliit ng carbon footprint niya...ay mahirap na talagang mag-add ng coal,” he said.

(The concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is getting worse. That is why even countries like the Philippines that have a smaller carbon footprint still shouldn’t add to their coal power plants.)

Aaron Pedrosa, secretary-general of activist group Sanlakas, said during the press conference that many coal power plants are in Luzon, some near biodiversity hotspots. 

“There are some coal plants that are in ancestral domain areas,” he said, referring to territories of indigenous peoples.

Rivera said that by declaring a climate emergency, the government should be able to allot a significant budget for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

With the global climate strike happening before the next round of climate change negotiations in Madrid, Rivera said Philippine representatives should help convince rich countries to curb their use of coal-fired power plants.

“'Yung mga mayamang bansa kailangan mag-allocate ng pondo, 'yung mga tinatawag na climate finance dahil para ang mga developing countries tulad ng Pilipinas ay magamit ito sa paghanda sa pagtugon sa climate change,” he said.

(Rich companies need to allocate funds or what we call climate finance so that developing countries like the Philippines can use it to prepare for the changes brought about by climate change.)

Nacpil estimates that they will be able to gather at least 10,000 people in the simultaneous climate strikes set around the country. 

The climate strike to be held in Manila has the support of the local government, according to organizers. Climate strikes are also set in Pangasinan, La Union, Bataan, Quezon, Cebu, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte and Davao City, said Rivera.

Joining the groups at the climate strike in Manila are youth organizations who will be lighting up Christmas lanterns as they announce their climate demands. The youth groups, headed by Youth Advocates for Climate Action in the Philippines and 350.org, are expected to include students from various schools in Metro Manila. 

“It is a wakeup call and until they hear us, until they are acting with urgency, with great, bold ambition, we will keep going to the streets and hoping that more people will join us,” Nacpil said.

The global climate strikes began in 2018 through the efforts of Thunberg in Sweden, who started with solo protests in front of the Swedish parliament. 

It has since spread in different parts of the world. The last major climate strike was in September this year, before the UN climate action summit in New York. The week-long strikes drew around 7.6 million people in different countries, according to 350.org.