The island of Negros is coal-free, and they want to keep it that way.
Negrenses have proven to be the best example for renewable energy in the Philippines by continuing their fight against coal. In a continually progressive Visayas, their province has become a hotbed of anti-coal sentiments, and they show no signs of losing steam.
A Coal-Free Negros
Earlier this year, youth and religious leaders from the region pushed for a coal-free and more sustainable Negros.
Church leaders from four different Roman Catholic dioceses in Negros Island expressed opposition to a planned coal-fired power plant in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.
This was supported by Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH), a local youth group coalition. With their help, Negrense youth have become empowered with information, and have found the courage to conduct demonstrations against the coal-fired plant.
These sentiments culminated into an Executive Order (EO) by then Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Marañon, Jr. declaring the whole province coal-free.
The Negrense Youth Leading the Charge
The fight for a truly coal-free Negros continued during the week-long global climate strikes last September, which saw Y4CH at the forefront.
Y4CH was one with the global youth movement inspired by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. With increased fervor, realizing they’re not alone in pushing for a more sustainable future, the group held demonstrations in Bacolod City.
The Nationwide Impact of Negros
The impact of Negros in the national outcry for sustainability goes beyond their island. For example, their sentiments were shared by demonstrators during the climate strike all the way in Manila.
The organization Power for People Coalition (P4P) held demonstrations in line with the global strike on the streets surrounding Malacañang. The group echoed the pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA). According to the President, he supports the country’s transition into clean energy.
On an interview on the sidelines of the protest, Gerry Arances, convenor of the P4P, continued to decry the country’s dependence on coal. He mentioned that switching to renewable energy is possible, and asks President Duterte to issue an Executive Order to facilitate it.
“In Negros, we already saw that we can go renewable,” declared Arances.
That was living proof that the message resonated. The island remains at the forefront of consciousness for Filipino activists. Back on the island, Governor Bong Lacson vows to stand by the EO of his predecessor.
Keep the Flames of Sustainability Burning
Negros still serves as the model for sustainability that other provinces are trying to emulate.
There’s now a global outcry against climate change, and developing countries like the Philippines are most at risk. It’s fitting that the shift to sustainable energy is the only logical step for us.
Hopefully, stronger laws and enforcement follow suit. But until then, you can count on the Negrense to keep the flame burning, fighting for a more sustainable future. And they’re not alone!