Farmers, indigenous peoples, and environmental defenders are being threatened, harassed, and killed. The perpetrators of the violence are rarely found or prosecuted. Several communities still fight against gigantic, heavily polluting industries that threaten our natural resources and ancestral domains. Although the Philippines’ contribution to the climate emergency is minimal, our country is among the most vulnerable to its impacts.

This is the true state of the nation.

Attacks on Defenders

In 2019, according to a report released by the London-based Global Witness, the Philippines was the deadliest country for land and environment defenders, with at least three of them dying every week. Now, with the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the fight for a livable planet has become more dangerous. The law could increase the threats to, intimidation of, and attacks on climate activists and environmental defenders.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) in 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte pledged to reduce the country’s dependence on traditional, dirty, and imported sources of energy such as coal and to promote the use of clean energy. But today, several communities are still fighting against coal proponents and other carbon-intensive and heavily polluting industries.

Climate Justice

Since the Philippines is among the most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, we need to institutionalize solutions and policies to adapt to the emergency and to mitigate its effects. We need to formalize a climate emergency declaration, encourage fossil fuel divestment, and mainstream a comprehensive paradigm for a greener, more livable, and better normal.

But to everyone’s disappointment, in Duterte’s Sona 2020, there was no mention of any concrete plan for the environment. There was no discussion of a recovery plan toward a just and better normal.

In Duterte’s speech, it became clear that his administration’s concept of sustainability is too narrow. He only mentioned the rehabilitation of Boracay, which if we examine more closely used a militaristic approach as the State deployed hundreds of police and military personnel to clean up the popular tourist destination. In addition, the initiative adversely affected the livelihood of thousands of hotel, restaurant, tourism and construction workers.

This government should know better than to rely on militaristic interventions to solve problems. We are in a climate emergency and we have a deadline for instituting meaningful change. At this time when we need to be at our loudest, we find ourselves being silenced.

As the youth who will bear the brunt of climate disasters, we cannot just sit back, tolerate inaction, and allow our future to be robbed from us. We have a constitutionally-protected right to a healthful and balanced ecology and to hold our public officials accountable for it. We call upon our leaders to stand true to their commitment to uphold, protect, and advance the rights of their people. We demand urgent, sustainable, inclusive, just, and pro-people solutions.

Our future is our birthright. We have to fight for it. Today, I enjoin my fellow Filipino youth to exercise their rights, to take up brave spaces and to hold the government accountable in the climate discourse.