The sight of more than a hundred fishing boats with "Clean, Sustainable, Peaceful Energy" flags sailing at sunrise with the Rainbow Warrior in one of the most beautiful bays in the Philippines is really something to marvel about. It was an early start and while we were waiting for the RainbowWarrior to arrive in front of San Felipe, we saw several more hurrying to meet the ship and her crew. On shore were another group of fisherfolks trying to form the words "Clean Energy Now" with their boats. Unfortunately, the tides were not cooperating and so the (fisherfolks) they made a quick decision to move their boats on land. Even with this slight hitch, I could feel the determination and commitment of this community to let their message be heard. They were only able to form the words "Clean Energy" because unfortunately we ran out of space on shore even while there were still several boats ready to form the words "Now." The RainbowWarrior was able to come close enough to the shore and the school, visible enough to sow inspiration, hope and courage to more than 1000 people who were waiting.
Once the crew came down, the program started with a tribal dance from the T'bolis. Capt. Mike of the Rainbow Warrior spoke about Sarangani's beautiful coastline, beautiful sea and very lush landscape. He said that Greenpeace, the Rainbow Warrior and her crew were there to stand for positive change. In the course of his travels all over the world, he has seen the destruction that's being done on our planet. But at the same time he has also seen communities who were victorious in their struggles against these destruction. That is why the Rainbow Warrior is here so that we can join them in solidarity in their continuing struggle against the proposed coal fired power plant.
Two Provincial Board members also gave statements that they were personally asked by Sarangani Cong. Manny Pacquiao, to witness and listen to the sentiments of the people. Cong. Manny ran on a platform of anti-poverty and anti-coal and the Provincial Board is proud that there is now a resolution repealing an earlier provincial endorsement of the proposed power plant. The board has also demanded for an exhaustive investigation of other possible renewable energy sources in the province.
There were a lot of inspiring speeches, mostly from the community leaders who demand development but not at the expense of the environment. They stand firm in their commitment and they said they are not afraid.
The human banner which is probably the first of its kind in Mindanao and probably for the community was participated by people from all over Sarangani not just Maasim who went there to register their opposition. The human banner reading "NO TO COAL” stressed the importance of the images we took as a means of telling their story to the outside world. Now, people will know of this little town called Maasim standing up for their right to a clean environment.
The thing that struck me most really was the sense of hope that Greenpeace was able to bring to the community. There was a very tangible sense of euphoria and I think the experience sort of liberated them from the feeling of uncertainty and doubt, perhaps also a feeling of hopelessness. I know that with our visit, the people of Sarangani have started to awaken to the very real dangers that this coal plant project will cause. And I know they will even be stronger in their fight against coal long after Greenpeace has left.
I'm quite emotional because they too have inspired me and many of the Greenpeace volunteers and staff. Truly the experience yesterday was about ordinary people taking extraordinary stand, bound by their common love to protect our environment. Sarangani has made a decision to say no to coal and the proponents will do very well to accept that decision.