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Manila Times Confronting Climate Change From Below
Thursday, April 23, 2009
By Ricarido Saturay Jr.
Confronting climate change from below
The First National Grassroots Conference on Climate Change was successfully held on April 20 to
21, 2009 at the Balay Kalinaw, UP Diliman. The conference with its theme “Confronting Climate
Change: Unity of Grassroots Organizations and Advocates for Action and Solidarity” was
organized by the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA), a broad multi-sectoral alliance
formed to address the impacts of global warming. The objectives of the conference are to educate
the basic sectors on the issue of climate change and come up with recommendations and plan of
actions on how to mitigate and adapt to the effects of global warming at the community level.
What emerged during the conference was that some of the worst effects of global warming are
already being felt at the grassroots level where our poor communities are. These communities are
those most vulnerable to climate change and yet they are ill equipped to face these effects.
Datu Monico Cayug, an indigenous leader from Kalumaran, an inter-regional alliance of Lumads in
Mindanao, expressed his fears of global warming on upland communities because they are already
experiencing its effects. He said that, “we are now experiencing the brunt of climate change in our
everyday lives. Farming for us has become more difficult as stronger typhoons and longer droughts
have destroyed our crops. To make our situation worse, many of our people are being displaced as
our farmlands and forests are given to transnational corporations for commercial mining, logging
and agrofuel plantations.”
The conference opened with a call for the people to face head-on the issue of global warming.
Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo of the new coalition MAKA-BAYAN gave a keynote speech on
this issue. He pointed out that it is high time that grassroots organizations collectively sit down and
discuss the worldwide crisis of global warming from the view point of the toiling masses. Sen.
Jamby Madrigal, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on the Environment, graced the event
with a clear stand to address global warming and the issue of climate change.
There were workshops that discussed flash floods and landslides brought about by increased
precipitation due to climate change, as well as the rise of the sea level that affects coastal
communities, the decrease in agricultural productivity leading to loss of food security and the health
effects on urban and rural populations. There were further discussions on the core issues related to
climate change: What is it, how is happening, who is accountable and where should grassroots
communities bring the campaign to address global warming.
Ms. Ros B. Guzman of IBON Foundation pointed out in her presentation that while it is the
industrialized countries that are mainly responsible for the increase in greenhouse gases, countries
like the Philippines are bearing the brunt of an increase of typhoon strength and frequency and other
effects of climate change. She termed the situation as “Third World vulnerability, First World
The issue of climate change is not just an environmental issue but it is linked to the economic crisis
that the we are facing right now: The crisis brought about by overproduction by the prevailing
world economic system and the vulnerabilities of our export-oriented and import dependent local
The effects of the changing climate on health were discussed. Injury and deaths resulting from
disasters, spread of communicable diseases and health problems arising from migration and
competitions due to shrinking global resources.
Problems were pointed out regarding the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as an instrument
of the industrialized countries to respond to the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to lower
greenhouse gas emissions. Similar problems with so-called solutions such as the promotion of
large-scale biofuel plantations were also discussed by the body. The false promise of zero carbon
emissions of nuclear power technology was also pointed out with regard to the issue of the revival
of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
Even solutions such as planting carbon sinks were qualified. Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairman of the
scientists’ group AGHAM, pointed out that even if the Filipinos continue to plant trees, this will
only result in a zero as the government continues to allow and even promote commercial logging
and mining which directly destroy our forests and mountains.
It was also pointed out that unless government reverses some of its key policies and programs that
destroy our environment, climate change initiatives would be for naught. There are existing policies
in strategic sectors, such as energy, mining, forestry, agriculture, and trade, which render the
country more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The conference ended with a challenge to the Philippine government to institute policies and
programs to genuinely mitigate climate change and help communities adapt to its impacts.
(Saturay is currently teaching at the National Institute of Geological Science at UP Diliman. He is
also the spokesperson of the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance.)