Leyte tells the world: “Break Free from fossil fuels, Haiyan should never happen again.”

Press release - March 25, 2017
Tacloban City, Leyte – Citizens of Leyte today converged at the iconic San Juanico Bridge to send a message to the world: “Unite against climate change and never let anything like Haiyan happen again.” A giant banner was unfurled at the middle of the bridge bearing the words “#BreakFree from fossil fuels,” as a team of cyclists overhead and a team of rowers below led this culminating activity for the week-long Leyte leg of Break Free 2017, a series of peaceful community mobilizations across the Philippines [1] contributing to the second wave of global actions against fossil fuels.

“We should continue to build awareness, to mainstream talks and initiatives about climate change, particularly advocating how important the role of every community member is, whatever sector that individual may belong to,” said Ronan Christian M. Reposar, Vice Mayor of Palo, Leyte.

The multi-sectoral assemblage reiterates that, though climate change may be something that people in other parts of the world still need to argue about and prepare for in their future, climate impacts are already something that Filipinos experience each year. Residents of Leyte reckon it lost more than 10,000 souls in November 2013 during Typhoon Haiyan (locally, ‘Yolanda’), an extreme weather event, with millions more who are up to now affected, not just financially and psychologically, but in myriad ways.

“The big fossil fuel companies should heed the people of Leyte, who are leading the call for climate justice and an end to reliance on dirty, devastating sources of energy. After more than three years, the people themselves are the ones making the effort to take back their lives and their rights. They are transforming themselves into a global voice for communities who are at the forefront of climate impacts. Leyte citizens are turning to sports, arts and culture not just to make better sense of their experiences, but also to drive home the point that we have the power to Break Free from climate change,” said Desiree Llanos Dee, Climate Justice Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines.

The different cycling groups from all over Leyte and the rowers from the Saltwater Dragon Boat Club of Tacloban joined artists, musicians, craftsmen and activists during the past week for skill-sharing workshops that are increasingly becoming avenues that show “building back better” should be pursued not just for infrastructure but, maybe more importantly, for lifestyles as well.

“The creative expressions in the series of Break Free 2017 activities in Leyte are as much for the people of the world as they are for the artists and people of Leyte. The creative process and the art work itself empower individuals and the community to find expression and fulfillment in putting their concerns into symbols. Art renders meaning to the creator. It is empowering because the art-maker is engaged in making sense of things including, experiences of pain in disaster and puts them in order. Thus, they and their audiences who see this may be able to move on with their lives,” said Prof. Joycie Dorado-Alegre of the University of the Philippines Tacloban – Visayas Campus (UPTVC) and President of the Leyte-Samar Heritage Society, Inc.

The groups in Leyte are asking fossil fuel companies and governments around the world to take bolder steps in reducing emissions. A dramatic shift to renewable sources could potentially end the threat of climate change. The big fossil fuel companies account for the lion’s share of fossil fuel products that have been manufactured, marketed and sold since the industrial revolution and have contributed to record levels of carbon emissions globally, yet vulnerable countries like the Philippines are the most affected by climate impacts.

A petition was filed with the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights by impacted communities, individuals and rights groups, concerning the role of big polluters in potential human rights abuses due to climate change. Hearings are expected to be held later this year. The petition is among a global wave of climate justice-related cases being brought against governments and fossil fuel companies. People have filed actions in countries including Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the Philippines.

“While the world’s eyes are on the unfolding of the CHR case, its ears are on the people of Leyte as they find their voice. And the message is clear: We cannot continue with business-as-usual. Lives, livelihoods and ways of life are at stake,” Llanos Dee added.


Note to editors:

[1] The Break Free national wave of actions against dirty energy was launched 13 March 2017, in front of the San Miguel Corporation headquarters in Manila, where coal-affected communities and civil society organizations staged a lightning rally to demand that the company shut down its coal plants in Limay, Bataan, and shift to renewable energy. This is the second time Filipinos are joining the Break Free global wave of actions against fossil fuels, escalating the massive Piglas Pilipinas! national campaign in 2016.

For more information:

Desiree Llanos Dee, Climate Justice Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines; ; +639985959732

JP Agcaoili, Communications Manager, Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines; ; +639498891334