By Beatrice Tulagan
Since I started my work in climate change, visiting Negros has always been a favorite considering the robust people-powered movement present in the region and the central role young people play in the struggle. Seeing so many young Negrenses rising up to protect their home island is always all sorts of inspiring. Planning a training that will help these young activists learn from some of the best senior communicators and campaigners from 350.org’s network was a treat in itself, and after the few days in Bacolod City conducting workshops and strategy meetings, I can safely say that I am confident the island’s future is in great hands.
Once touted by the Department of Energy as a possible Renewable Energy Capital of the Philippines, it came as a surprise to Negrenses in 2018 to hear that a 300 MW plant is being planned in San Carlos, Negros by San Miguel Corporation. Local groups supported by national climate change organizations and church officials have been explicitly campaigning against the planned plant since it was announced. Currently, there is an ordinance up for deliberation lodged at the Provincial Council disallowing the exploration, establishment and operation of any coal-fired power plant in the Negros Occidental province proposed by Governor Alfredo Maranon. The Vice Governor, Eugenio Jose Lacson, however, has expressed he would support the plant if San Carlos City residents do. Lacson chairs the Provincial Council.
As a response, youth organizations comprised of Linghod, Humanist Association of the Philippines, PYO San Carlos and students from schools all over Negros formed Youth for Climate Hope, the youth arm of the movement, to campaign for the approval of the ordinance and to raise awareness on the ill effects of the coal plant to hopefully stop the plan in its tracks. They started holding silent protests in front of the provincial capitol every Wednesday to protest the plant and pressure the Provincial Council who convenes every Wednesday to pass the ordinance. It was a pleasure then to meet these unapologetically passionate young people in person and discuss ways forward.
Training for change
The training kicked off with introductions, expectations setting, and agenda discussion that I facilitated. Among the notable inputs for the expectation setting session were the participants’ desire to know more about sustaining a campaign led by youth who have limited resources and renewable energy so they could offer an alternative narrative to their constituents.
The morning session focused on the science of coal and climate change with a workshop on communicating science in face of persistent pro-coal narratives, facilitated by incoming 350 Pilipinas volunteer and science communicator Pecier Decierdo. The participants defined target audiences, appropriate messengers and pro-coal narratives they often hear. Together, the group brainstormed ways to counter these.
The first session for the afternoon, on the other hand, is on the basics of campaigning led by Francis Dela Cruz the current Partnerships and Advocacy Advisor of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.
Francis identified what constitutes power in basic campaigning — resources, ideas and people — and introduced the four basic elements of campaigning through demonstrating setting a campaign objective, conducting power analysis, setting a communications strategy based on motive and enumerating possible tactical activities.
Chuck Baclagon, the current regional digital campaigner for East Asia, conducted a session on digital campaigning after this discussion, sharply noting recognizing the limitations of ‘clicktivism’ and going beyond petitions and social media meme gimmickry, emphasizing instead on developing tactics that bridge online to offline actions. This was quickly supported by a presentation on 350.org’s digital tools for local groups by 350 Global Digital Campaigner, Jenny Tuazon.
The last session for the day was on basic campaigning security facilitated again by Chuck with support from Francis in sharing best practices and actual real-life examples experienced by the two over the course of their careers.
Overall, it was a good run filled with stories and laughter. By the end of the day, the participants were empowered to take their organizing and campaigning to the next level. As an organizer who got her start in climate through a youth training very similar to this one, it is particularly important for me to see that the lessons we impart through these activities translate into real world calls and tactics, and that the young people we train marry science, policy, justice and creative activism to fight for a fossil-free future. It is clear that Youth for Climate Hope is forward-looking in its approach, and does not only seek to have Negros declared coal-free but also a national model for community-based solutions to the climate crisis. I look forward to see more of the great work that they do.