By Chuck Baclagon
Last year, 10,000 people took to the streets in Batangas City under the banner of Piglas Pilipinas!, to defend their hometown from the invasion of dirty energy. The event was monumental because it was the biggest act of public protest against coal plants in the Philippines, which made the growing resistance against fossil fuels reach national consciousness.
The result was a series of policy momentum that materialized into the Philippines’ ratification of the Paris Agreement in spite of the initial delays driven by Duterte’s hesitation to sign it. The climate movement was able to turn around his position and the senate voted unanimously to ratify the treaty.
Break Free 2017
In spite of these recent developments, much still needs to be done. It is still urgent to join forces with communities in vulnerable situations against extreme weather, climate impacts, and especially against the corporations which have contributed to the climate crisis.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, recently said he would not put a cap on the the use of coal in spite of the country’s recent ratification of the Paris Agreement.
But communities refuse to be silent; they are once again taking the streets and demanding freedom from coal.
In Manila, coal-affected communities trooped to the corporate headquarters of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) last March 13 to demand the shutdown of its coal facilities in Limay, Bataan. Their coal plant and open stockpile have been implicated in causing sores, irritations, and cardiovascular ailments among the people living nearby. Residents believe that it is a travesty that SMC’s coal plant continues to operate despite its harmful impacts to the health and environment.
Meanwhile, in Cebu, community representatives, environmental activists, and civil society groups led a 60-kilometer “climate walk” tracing the path of existing and proposed coal plants in the province last March 15 to 18. They started their journey near the Aboitiz-led power plant in Toledo City, stopped halfway at the Kepco SPC Power Corporation plant in Naga City, and ended the walk at the Ludo project site, in the heart of the province’s capital. The action culminated with the unfurling of a floating banner near the site of the proposed Ludo coal-fired power station by a stand-up paddling group to convey Cebuanos’ strong opposition to the project.
Challenging the social license of the fossil fuel industry
Building on these efforts and achievements of various anti-coal campaigning initiatives, there is a strong need to take the struggle to a higher level with a clear call and direction in dismantling the power of the fossil fuel industry through divestment. Globally institutions, large and small around the world, have been taking a public stand against a rogue industry that’s sacrificing our shared climate and future in the name of profit.
Divestment works by targeting the social license that fossil fuel companies need to operate, and removing it. Every institution that divests is adding to the pressure fossil fuel industry is feeling, and eroding the social acceptance and political influence of these companies.
These companies aren’t going down without a fight. Right now the fossil fuel industry and their powerful allies in government are backing a global efforts to hinder climate action. We stand at the threshold of our collective struggle –where every effort to gain ground matters whether it be on the streets in the seats of political power and in the financial sector.
There is a power surge on the way and it will be people-powered.
The coming Global Divestment Mobilization will demonstrate our global power and strengthen national and regional divestment efforts. And that’s why from 5-13 May, we need more people like you – your role is vital to increase the pressure on respected local, national and global institutions to divest from fossil fuels.