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Government urged to declare national climate emergency

At a press conference on Earth Day 2024, environmental, climate justice, and multisectoral groups called attention to the climate crisis-exacerbated impacts of the ongoing El Niño, which is expected to bring even warmer temperatures in May and is projected to be succeeded by the opposite La Niña phenomenon by the second half of the year.

As of April 20, at least 58 cities and municipalities have declared a State of Calamity. Over nearly 50,000 farmers have been affected, and damage to agriculture alone has reached over Php P2.63 billion and to fisheries P33 million.

Carrying a representation of the Earth burning with fever, the groups led by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), SANLAKAS, Oriang, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK), Bukluran ng Mangingisda sa Batangas (BMB), Zambales Lingap Kalikasan (ZALIKA) and others called on the Philippine government to declare a national climate emergency.

In a statement, the groups questioned the adequacy of the Marcos administration’s preparation for and action to “alleviate the impacts of El Niño exacerbated by the climate crisis on Filipinos, who are yearly robbed of their lives and livelihoods from intensifying climate impacts.” The groups also “denounce its development directions that aggravate our climate vulnerability and contribute to worse global warming – including allowing the proliferation of mining in vulnerable areas, and backing massive expansion and reliance on dirty coal and gas.”

“The Philippine government can lead Filipinos toward either climate justice and action, or hunger and death. We will not allow the latter,” the groups said.

“We call on the Marcos administration to finally and genuinely acknowledge the climate crisis, and declare a national climate emergency now. In doing so, it must allocate funds for the adaptation and resilience of vulnerable communities from intensifying climate impacts, including immediate relief for communities impacted by the El Niño; commence the phaseout of massive coal dependence, reject the expansion of reliance on gas, and ensure a swift and full transition to 100% renewable energy; implement development policies and planning for safe, sustainable, resilient communities at the national, subnational, and local levels; and secure the finance and resources necessary for sustained and ambitious climate mitigation and adaptation and reparation for past climate impacts, by representing the genuine interests of the people in multilateral international spaces and guided by the principle of climate justice,” read the statement.


QUOTES

Ian Rivera, National Coordinator, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice

“We call on the national government to declare a national climate emergency. The Philippines is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as evidenced by the widespread devastation brought by El Niño. A repeat of the 2016 Mindanao drought fiasco is unacceptable. We urge the national government to acknowledge the grave impacts of El Niño and, through a climate declaration, prioritize the creation of a national survival plan that will address future impacts. The current approach to disaster response and mitigation planning is insufficient and outdated.”

Gerry Arances, Executive Director, Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED)

“Exacerbated by the climate crisis, El Niño is a real risk to the ability of many Filipino families to put food on their table. Today, we are seeing much higher prices of rice and other staple foods. A global coral bleaching event is also underway – risking the death of entire ecosystems and driving away fish and marine sources, which supply up to 70% of the total animal protein intake of Filipinos. The ongoing El Niño should be a splash of cold water on the national government to urgently prioritize adaptation and resilience building nationally, ensuring that vulnerable communities and sectors are shielded from worst impacts. At the same time, it must stop employing policy directions that bring even more harm to people, the environment, and the climate – especially dependence on coal and gas whose amid extremely hot temperatures also become a grave burden.”

Luke Espiritu, National President, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)

“Workers are already beset with starvation wages, rising cost of living, and precariousness. As extreme temperatures caused by El Niño will destroy crops and dry our water sources, workers will further face rising food prices and costs of public services, accompanied by worsening work conditions due to the infernal heat. We call for an immediate declaration of a national climate emergency. This should lead government to take bold and effective steps in addressing the climate crisis. There must be a comprehensive climate action plan containing mitigation measures like the rapid shift to renewable energy. The shift must be under a just transition framework in order to preserve workers’ livelihoods, provide living wages and ensure healthy work conditions. Climate finance must be through non-debt creating public budgets with Global North countries made to çontribute based on their historical responsibility for GHG emissions.”

Patricia Racca, Secretary-General, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK)

“Tragic as the impacts of El Niño are today, all these will pale in comparison to future climate impacts if we continue to burn fossil fuels and advance polluting industries. The Philippine government has a responsibility both to the youth of the present generations to come to ensure our climate survival.”

Flora Santos, National President, Oriang Women’s Movement

“Sa pagdanas El Nino, sa usapin ng kabuhayan, kalusugan, at klima, ang talagang nagpapasan ng iba’t ibang krisis na ito ay ang kababaihan. Kababaihan ang laging nag-iisip kung ano ang kakainin ng kanilang pamilya. Kapag may bagyo o sakuna, ang nanay, ang lola, ang nag-iisip kung paano titiyaking ligtas ang mga anak nila. Hindi lang diskriminasyon ang dinadanas ng kababaihan, pasan din nila ang pag-iisip sa kabutihan ng pamilya, komunidad, at lipunan. Kaisa kami sa panawagang magdeklara na ang pamahalaan ng national na climate emergency, at maglaan ng pondo, programa, at polisiya para sa katiyakan na maayos ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino.”

Manjette Lopez, National President, Sanlakas

“There are multiple crises burdening our country today – not least of them the impacts of this El Niño, which is driving hunger, livelihood loss, and threats to the well-being of Filipinos all over the Philippines. The Marcos administration should be paying attention and taking action to resolve this, and not swim in distractions that only serve the interests of a few like the aggressive push for a charter change. The government must acknowledge and declare a national climate emergency, and mobilize in an all-hands-on-deck manner to genuinely serve the interests of Filipinos and protect our climate survival.”

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