Philippines (City of Manila)
In just a few short years YACAP has grown from a handful of individuals to hundreds of members across the country.
The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable places on Earth to climate change, so it is not surprising that the climate emergency is attracting urgent attention from Filipino youth. However, it is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental activists, so speaking out about the urgency of the climate emergency can be risky.
This hasn’t stopped the team at Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) from mobilising youth on the ground in the fight for change.
YACAP is an alliance of Filipino youth organisations, student councils and individuals, fighting against climate change and pursuing climate justice. Established in 2019, the alliance is led by the youth and is the counterpart of Fridays for Future in the Philippines. YACAP has chapters across the Philippines, representing different regional clusters, and they hope to establish chapters in the regional, provincial, and even city level.
As National Coordinator Jon Bonifacio explains, “We are working towards a future where people and planet are put first, where everyone is included as we transition into a more sustainable future.”
They do this by engaging with the youth and frontline communities in climate education, forwarding positive alternatives to problematic policies of the government, and linking with other activists around the globe. And in this way YACAP hopes “to effect the necessary social changes leading to system change worldwide.”
YACAP works across five key points of action: climate justice, urgency of climate action, defence of environmental defenders, youth-led collective action and system change.
They organise a range of activities, such as social media campaigns, strikes, professional development for their members, education programmes and a podcast that talks about the climate crisis and what the Filipino youth can do about it. Some recent activities include the Youth Climate Agenda 2022, to campaign for green leadership at the national elections or the Global Climate Strike in March 2022.
They have also been present in international forums, for example in 2021 YACAP sent three delegates to the UN Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where they were able to engage with activists and organisations from around the world and amplify the situation of the Philippines.
Although it has a youth-led approach, YACAP is aware that they are part of a long history of environmental activism. “It’s important to recognise that the fight for climate and ecological justice has been going on for decades, led by small farmers, small fisherfolk, workers, and Indigenous peoples, albeit with slightly different wording and approach,” Jon says. “In that way, we youth activists can learn a lot from those who came before us.”
But if this is an issue that people have been fighting for decades, how can the next generation of activists stay hopeful in the face of such immense challenges? As Jon has learned over the years, communication is vital.
“The issue of climate change must be communicated carefully, to ensure that people are inspired to act rather than demotivated in the face of our colossal problem.”
And one way to do this is through storytelling. “Storytelling is crucial in tackling the climate crisis as it exposes an aspect of the issue that usually is not covered by scientific papers or even mainstream media,” explains Jon. “By telling stories, people are much more able to relate to other people and understand what’s happening, and how it can and will affect them today and in the future. It’s an effective way of getting people moving.”
YACAP is at the start of its journey, but it has grown quickly and this coming together of young people to make a change is what inspires Jon:
“Personally, seeing our alliance grow from just a handful of individuals to hundreds of members across the country within just a few years always makes me feel warm inside when I think about it.”
YACAP is hoping to continue to grow both nationally and in the internationally, and they are working with other youth climate organisations in the Southeast Asian region to build a regional climate alliance, Southeast Asian Climate Alliance. Watch this space!
AtlasAction: Individuals and organisations based in the Philippines, as well as the Filipino diaspora, can sign up to become a member of YACAP. You can also check out their events on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Jon Bonifacio, National Coordinator
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