September 25, 2020

PH climate strikes slam ‘hypocritical’ UN speech of Duterte

Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines

Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), the Philippine chapter of the Fridays for Future movement led by international climate activist Greta Thunberg, held a aerial art attack at University of the Philippines Diliman today to demand climate action and call out President Duterte’s ‘hypocritical’ United Nations General Assembly speech last Wednesday about climate change.

“Shame on you, President Duterte, for not walking your UN climate commitments talk in your own backyard. We are on a climate strike amid the pandemic because of Duterte’s relentless pursuit of climate disruptive projects like coal power expansion, land reclamation, and aggressive big mining,” said Mitzi Jonelle Tan, international spokesperson of YACAP.

“The height of hypocrisy is that Filipino climate protectors are now being terrorized under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 that Duterte defended in the same speech. Duterte calls us terrorists, he tries to silence us, but we are not backing down. We are on strike not only to demand concrete climate action here in the Philippines, but to defend our very right to protect our climate as well,” Tan furthered.

The protest action, entitled “Kamay para sa Klima: Hands-on Climate Action,” had protest centers in Metro Manila, Bangued, and Tacloban that all shared a unified theme calling on Filipinos to be “hands-on” when it comes to climate action. In line with the theme, youth activists wrote “Protect Climate Protectors” in different Filipino languages with paint handprints, making a total of 25,000 handprints across the various strike centers.

“The themes of our climate strikes last 2019 were focused on raising awareness about the climate emergency and empowering the youth to light the path to a greener future,” said Xian Guevarra, YACAP national coordinator and lead overseer of this year’s strikes. “This year, we want to show that it’s time to be hands-on, it’s time to be proactive in the fight against climate change and the people who are actively supporting the system that allows climate change to happen.”

The 25,000 handprints symbolize the more than 25,000 individuals around the world, including Greta Thunberg, who signed the recent petition spearheaded by Filipino environment and climate groups against the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, a law which YACAP sees as a threat to environment and climate activism.

“International solidarity is vital when it comes to fighting the climate crisis,” added Guevarra. “With the reach of our international petition, we can see that Filipino climate protectors are not alone in their fight for climate justice and for the democratic spaces necessary for our voices to be heard — democratic spaces that are under threat from the Terror Law.”

One of the main advocacies for this year’s international climate strike is #FightClimateInjustice, which highlights the situation of the most affected peoples and areas by climate change. As the Philippines is one of the world’s most impacted countries when it comes to climate-related disasters, YACAP activists are clamoring for immediate action from world leaders and big businesses in their five keypoint demands: declaration of climate emergency, accountability from large-scale polluters, stronger climate education, protection of environment defenders, and adoption of long-term policies to address climate change.

“Typhoons, droughts, rising sea levels, we experience this everyday. We are the second most vulnerable country in the world to the climate crisis, yet our contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions are so little. And what are the US, China, and EU, the countries who are most responsible for the climate crisis doing? Nothing, or even worse, pretending that what they’re doing is enough. Global leaders are praising the youth and saying that we will change the future, but the youth in the most affected areas have been ignored and actively silenced in our own countries,” said Tan. “The youth are so fed up and we refuse to let the oppressors win. We need to put people over profit and anyone who cannot prioritize this, does not deserve to be our leader.”

YACAP pointed out that despite President Duterte’s calls to action on climate change in his recent United Nations General Assembly speech, the policies of the current administration tell a different story, with its concessions to new coal-fired power plants and environmentally-destructive reclamation projects.

“We are calling on our national and world leaders to act immediately on the climate crisis,” said Jon Bonifacio, national spokesperson of environmental organization Saribuhay. “We are tired of lip service without actual action. If our current leaders cannot find the political will to do something about our current situation, it is high time for a green new leadership willing to address the concerns of the people and the planet.”

Media Reference

  • Jon Bonifacio (+63 939 913 6943)
  • Mitzi Jonelle Tan (+63 933 862 9622)
  • Xian Guevarra (+639 238 723 634)
  • [email protected]