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On Yolanda 10th year, survivors and advocates call for urgent 1.5C alignment

TACLOBAN CITY — Marking the 10th year anniversary of Yolanda — the deadliest supertyphoon that hit the Philippines — fisherfolk and urban poor communities, women and youth came together at a mass at the Redemptorist Church to call for 1.5C climate alignment amidst the climate emergency.

The commemoration mass, organized by Power for People Coalition (P4P), gathered local communities to exact accountability in the form of policies that will shield Tacloban and Eastern Visayas as a whole from the impacts of the worsening climate crisis brought by continued reliance on fossil fuel.

“As we remember the thousands of lives that perished due to the wrath of Yolanda, we also remember that accountability and justice in the form of genuine climate justice is still lacking. There is too much reliance on the ‘resilience of Filipinos’ instead of coming up with a long-term plan for dealing with climate change which is the root cause of the increasing intensity and frequency of typhoons. The only way that the government can put forward a resilient Philippines is to push for 1.5C alignment with urgency as this spells life or death for many Filipinos,” said P4P Convenor Gerry Arances.

The P4P statement for Yolanda anniversary commemoration, read during the mass, highlighted further “the need to move away from destructive energy from fossil fuels if we are to keep global warming below the so-called survival threshold 1.5°C, the use of coal, gas, and oil continues to expand.”

“In our own country, there is a new Philippine Energy Plan being updated that intends to embrace large new capacities of gas, despite our power system already being dominated by coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. In our own region, energy facilities in our area produce 100% renewable energy within the grid, yet much of the power we use comes from other islands from coal and fossil fuels. Meanwhile, climate adaptation and building of our resilience continue to be in want,” the statement reads.

“In the newest update of the DOE’s Philippine Energy Plan, natural gas is shamelessly being hailed as the messiah to the transition needed for climate action, when it is still a form of fossil fuel that will bring typhoons worse than Yolanda. This is what happens when decision-makers serve the interests of polluters and not those most affected by this crisis,” says Krishna Ariola, founding convenor of Youth for Climate Hope.

Yolanda survivors and advocates

The groups then trooped to the Yolanda memorial markers in Tan-awan, Palo, Anibong, and Tigbao and unfurled banners calling for urgent 1.5C alignment.

Ten years after Yolanda, community members noted similarities from before with their conditions now. “Sa totoo lang, wala akong narinig na nagbago. Ilang administrasyon na ang nagpalit mula Yolanda na pinangakuan tayo ng maalway na buhay. Pero sa ngayon, ang alam natin ay ang pagtaas ng bayarin ng kuryente at iba pang nesesidad upang mabuhay. Nakaka-dehumanize ang ating mga kalagayan noon. Sa kabila ng bilyun-bilyon na pondo na pumapasok sa ating pamahalaan, hindi nila kaya i-audit,” Farah Diva Gamala, a community leader and member of Freedom from Debt Coalition Tacloban who recalled her experience during Yolanda.

“Yolanda is a cold case in the quest for justice. While we wail and grieve for the lives lost, we continue to demand for the Government to declare a climate emergency – to align budget, programs and plans towards climate action in the face of worsening slow onset impacts and weather extremes. That we have a half-blood Waray for a President and a Taclobanon as House Speaker should be good reason to mobilize the officialdom to avoid yet another Yolanda by phasing out fossil fuel dependence in favor of a transition to 100% renewable energy and leading the charge on the global platform for rich countries to stop expanding and funding new coal, oil, and gas projects,” Aaron Pedrosa, secretary-general of Sanlakas.

“What happened in Tacloban, a decade after, continues to be one of the most glaring reminders of climate injustice and what is to come if our government keeps on sidetracking the importance of limiting to 1.5C. The unseriousness of the commitment to the coal moratorium is an insult to the people of Tacloban and the rest of the affected communities. The country still has no concrete steps on how to decommission the existing coal plants. Instead of committing to the just transition to RE, the government detoured to fossil gas expansion — dirty energy that is still as harmful as coal,” Arances added.

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