A world to win: people’s actions on climate change

igorot, cordi, gongs
Indigenous Igorot from the ‘Martsa Amianan’ protest caravan with their traditional gangsa instruments demand an end to policies on globalization and plunder. (Photo by Loi Manalansan/Bulatlat.com)



Last of four parts
First part: A deluge of crises: the roots of our climate vulnerability
Second part: Polluters not paying: privatization as root of the energy crisis

Third part: Sins of commission and omission: Aquino’s climate policies

The Filipino people’s struggle to defend their lands, lives, and environment are rising above the climate crisis in confronting the worsening attacks of imperialist globalization and plunder.

Grassroots Resistance

The growing resistance of peasant, fisherfolk, indigenous people and other grassroots communities are mobilizing in their thousands to protest large-scale mining projects in the regions of Southern Tagalog, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera, Negros, Zamboanga Peninsula, SOCSKSARGEN, Davao, and CARAGA. They are staging various forms of protest, from people’s barricades and picket actions, to calibrated acts of sabotage and ultimately armed resistance that are successfully delaying or ousting mining projects from the North to the South.

people surge, yolanda, haiyan
Around 20,000 Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors march once again to Tacloban City to demand justice over the persisting criminal negligence of the Aquino administration. (Photo from People Surge Facebook Page)

In a clear paradigm shift from being victims to empowered seekers of justice, disaster survivors are organizing themselves into movements demanding justice from the negligence of governments and the exploitation and big businesses. Beginning with the formation and protests of survivor collectives during Typhoon Sendong (international name Washi) in 2011, followed by the dramatic road blockades and organized confiscation of hoarded relief goods by Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) survivors under the in 2012 through early 2013, both in Mindanao.

After Yolanda ravaged central Philippines with an unprecedented scale, survivors heeded lessons from Mindanao and founded the People Surge alliance of disaster victims. The People Surge staged a series of 20,000-strong protest mobilizations from the regional center of Tacloban City to Metro Manila to demand accountability and genuine assistance to the neglected communities.

There is also a broadening opposition to coal-fired power plants and coal mines from host communities, environmental activists, and the Church in the provinces of Batangas, Palawan, Quezon, and Antique, among others. In Batangas City, a participatory environmental investigative mission on the proposed JG Summit-owned coal power project was recently launched to ascertain the possible ecological and health impacts of the project.

The Roman Catholic Church also recently set out on a million-signature campaign against coal power projects as a concrete response to Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si.

Self-reliant communities

Highly organized communities led by the people’s movements have been building self-reliant communities as model counterpoints to the destructive, pollutive and inequitable programs and policies of the Aquino administration.

The social movements mobilized in bayanihan (mutual aid) campaigns to respond to recent typhoons. In response to the massive destruction brought by various typhoons, grassroots emergency response efforts such as the Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (People’s Mutual Aid) mobilized resources and volunteers to deliver much-needed aid ranging from food and water to seeds and temporary shelter for far-flung, remote communities.

Students put their theories to practice at the vegetable gardens of the alternative Lumad school Alacadev. (Photo from Alcadev website)
Students put their theories to practice at the vegetable gardens of the alternative Lumad school Alcadev. (Photo from Alcadev website)

Mutual aid and cooperation is also the frame of the grassroots in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of disaster-affected communities. After Typhoon Pepeng, indigenous Igorot people’s communities in the Cordillera worked together to rebuild upland homes utilizing appropriate technologies founded on indigenous engineering solutions. We also saw organized communities working with church formations and non-government organizations in rainforestation efforts in Mindanao after Typhoons Sendong and Pablo.

The bungkalan or land occupation and tilling campaigns are led by militant peasant associations across the Philippines, where they occupy idle lands owned by landlords and collectively till the land. The famous bungkalan of peasant groups in Hacienda Luisita, the sugarcane estate of Pres. Aquino’s landlord clan that continues to sabotage efforts to subject their property to land distribution, are asserting the utilization of contested lands amidst persisting militarization from police and military forces.

Linked closely with the peasant land struggles, progressive NGOs and social movements have long been establishing community-based renewable energy systems and sustainable agriculture farms to deliver basic people’s needs such as food security and rural electrification, and as a unique approach to asserting the independence and self-determination of communities. Alternative schools of the indigenous Lumad people in Mindanao have integrated sustainable agriculture and ecology in their basic education curriculum, and are unique fixtures of resistance to development aggression projects

Even the illegal Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, helped various peasant communities across Eastern and Western Visayas in responding to Yolanda in establishing agricultural cooperatives and asserting land reform struggles ranging from decreasing land rent, repudiating debts to landlords, to actual land occupations—a clear difference from the Aquino government’s emphasis on private, infrastructure-centric interests far from the needs of the peasant majority.

Challenging neoliberal policies

The neoliberal policies of privatization, liberalization, and deregulation long imposed by foreign states and various international financing institutions such as the WB and IMF, are being challenged by progressive legislators in the country.

The Makabayan bloc, a coalition of progressive partylists in the lower house of Congress, have led the crusade against policies such as the Mining Act, the EPIRA, the Amended Fisheries Code, and various other neoliberal policy impositions, pushing for the repeal of these onerous laws and for the advancement of alternative, pro-people and pro-environment policies such as House Bill 171 or the People’s Mining Bill, and House Resolution 787 or the Coal Moratorium Resolution.

Makabayan legislators have also maximized the filing of house resolutions to pursue investigations in aid of legislation, including the investigation of illegal black sand mining operations in the Northern Luzon, and the anomalous railroading of a coal power project in Palawan province, among others.

The effective complementation of a principled policy advocacy inside Congress and protest actions and other pressure tactics outside of Congress have allowed the progressive movement to maximize the limited space of democracy in the largely elite-dominated Congress.

Environmental activists call for a systemic shift to address the climate crisis during the People’s Caravan against APEC and Imperialist Globalization. (Photo by Loi Manalansan/Bulatlat.com)
Environmental activists call for a systemic shift to address the climate crisis during the People’s Caravan against APEC and Imperialist Globalization. (Photo by Loi Manalansan/Bulatlat.com)

Asserting system change

To genuinely address climate change issue in the Philippines, we must address the root of the crisis. System change is needed. As an alternative to the neo-colonial and semi-feudal society in which the environmental and social crises are rooted, the Filipino people must establish a truly-independent, self-reliant and progressive Philippines society.

To realize this, we must have a pro-people and pro-environment government that will implement a genuine land reform and agricultural modernization as the basic program to address the core economic activity of the country. Such an agricultural revolution is the foundation for its proposed national industrialization, where strategic industries will be nationalized to ensure public interest and state regulation.

This core development pathway in turn serves as the basis of ensuring comprehensive social services, the promotion of a nationalist and scientific mass culture, the upholding of people’s democratic rights, national minority and indigenous people’s rights to self-determination, and the emancipation of women.

The establishment of this state that plans the economy according to people’s needs, then creates a concrete condition where environmental protection and the wise utilization of our natural resources can be truly integrated in the development framework of our country.

This radical reorientation from a neo-colonial state towards a genuine people’s democracy has been the longstanding prescription of system change that the Filipino people have been advancing.

The flourishing of the different forms of national democratic struggle in the concrete realities of Philippine society proves that the program for system change is the most effective foundation of addressing the climate crisis and the rest of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Leon Dulce is the campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
This is the last of four parts of a series on the Filipino people’s struggle to confront the climate crisis on the road to the APEC and COP 21 international summits.

Please read also First part: A deluge of crises: the roots of our climate vulnerability
Second part: Polluters not paying: privatization as root of the energy crisis
Third part: Sins of commission and omission: Aquino’s climate policies

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