Environmental activists express their opposition to the use of coal during the start of a five-day caravan against coal on Nov. 24. (Photo by Joe Torres)
Anti-coal and climate justice groups and residents of communities affected by coal mines in the Philippines began a five-day caravan on Nov. 24 to highlight the impact of coal in their communities.
"The people are now demanding to stop coal in all forms," said Gerry Arances, national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.
The caravan, which started on Semirara Island in the central Philippine province of Antique, is also a response to calls by church leaders to be part of a prayer-march for the environment on Nov. 29.
The Global Climate March, which will start the day before the U.N. climate change conference in Paris, is expected to gather more than 1 million people in more than 2,000 cities around the world.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila has urged Filipinos to participate in the march to tell world leaders that "climate change is real, and we care."
The global movement, which is being organized by Catholic communities around the world, is expected to submit a petition with more than 20 million signatures to world leaders calling for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
In the southern city of Cagayan de Oro, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma appealed to Catholics to join the global march.
"Let us be united and help restore our common home," the archbishop said.
The Philippine Catholic bishops earlier called on Filipinos to do their part to combat global warming by planting trees, not using plastic, segregating waste, and promoting renewable energy, among others things.
Environmental activist Gina Lopez said the peace caravan of coal-affected communities symbolizes "the growing clamor against dirty and harmful energy."
Lopez said the people's caravan "proves to the government that the people are resisting coal projects."
In the past five years, the Philippine government has approved the building of 59 coal-fired power plants, in addition to 19 existing ones, that will be operational by 2020.
A total of 188 coal-mining permits have also been issued by the government.
Coal-mining sites on Semirara produce more than 90 percent of domestic coal resources. The industry has also adversely affected the island's seaweed sector, which produces US$8.5 million worth of seaweed annually.