I woke up on May 10, forced to consider what is happening to our country in a new way. It was not so much that everything had changed overnight, but rather that the challenges we face and the context we work in were now smack in front of us in all of its stark and frightening reality.
Make no mistake. These are dreadful times.
There’s talk of despair and exploring the prospect of leaving the country; these are desperate acts, but they bespeak the moment. People are not upset, they are distraught. I have many friends in the movement, who, like myself, are also going through their days and trying to get over it, and are not upset in the way they usually are when their candidate loses.
Something is different this time. We feel a sense of loss, yes, but in the sense of something leaving, something beloved getting away from us. Like a lost opportunity. And to an unprecedented degree, we are not getting over it because we could not unite on a course of action that made us fall short on the ballot box.
The next six years look grim.
With more than a month before he gets sworn into office, Bongbong Marcos Jr. has already named his cabinet members all execrable – but none more so than his vice president, Sara Duterte, daughter of the current president already hinting at the rewriting of history and reconfiguring our educational system to that of a military-like curriculum.
When the stock market closed on May 12, it indicated that in the trade index, almost all industries suffered loss given the low investor confidence as a result of the electoral confusion – except for the mining and oil industry, hinting that we can expect an influx on mining plus oil and gas exploration and projects under this dispensation.
This gains further credence given that we see personalities with known ties to mining already at the helm of leadership in the legislature and the provision banning open-pit mining in Cotabato has been lifted.
The daunting possibilities haunt me and I fear that I am not alone in the crippling paralysis of our defeat.
Six years ago, the future also seemed bleak, and the ensuing months that followed were the bloodiest in our country’s recent history.
But the past six years were also when the movement rose to the challenge, in the many arenas of our struggle – including the fight for climate justice.
The growth and maturation of the climate movement under Rodrigo Duterte’s regime compel me to imagine the prospects for tomorrow.
At the onset of Duterte’s presidency, the collective push of civil society was able to secure the Philippines’ ratification of the Paris Agreement.
The defiance of anti-coal communities resulted in the termination of coal power plant proposals; the declaration of over a dozen coal-free zones that ultimately led to a nationwide moratorium on greenfield coal projects by no less than the Department of Energy, who is finally catching up to the reality that the future is coal-free.
What started as a fledgling movement, the youth climate strikers have sprawled up all over the country. Groups like Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines have become a nationwide network that also sits as part of the international Fridays for Future – MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas), which bridges the gap between youth-led climate action in the developing world with their global north counterparts.
The community quarantines that came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the surge of people using bicycles to move around Metro Manila amidst the reduced volume of public transportation available has made bike-commuting and inclusive mobility is no longer just a buzzword among avid cyclists and urban planners. The eagerness for better transport options led to the establishment of the Mobility Awards, a platform that recognizes acts of leadership by local governments, workplaces, and commercial establishments promoting cycling as a reliable, efficient, and sustainable mode of transport among their constituencies, customers, employees, and communities.
While these gains are far from perfect, these are the catalysts going forward.
At the height of the electoral campaign period, we were able to bear witness to the emergence of a remarkable movement millions strong that filled the streets across the archipelago filled with energy, vibrant and creative – all strung in grief at the outcome of the elections.
We need to keep that energy together, and move forward. Together we need to instill a sense that there is something that can be done together right now – that we can survive defeat to fight again.
Especially now that we are faced with the challenge to continue the work of shifting financial flows away from fossil-fuel infrastructure alongside the work of supporting community-led campaigns to resist dirty energy projects.
There is a need to hasten the work of improving urban mobility conditions with better, cleaner, cost-effective transport options to lessen dependence on imported fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.
The need to prioritize the development of a comprehensive roadmap for implementing the country’s first nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement still stands.
And the work to accelerate the transition to a new, just clean energy economy by supporting community-led energy solutions becomes more urgent to keep false climate solutions like nuclear, waste-to-energy and fossil gas at bay.
To be able to do the work cut out for us we need to further strengthen ties and continue to work with social movements by supporting their efforts for intersectional justice and well-being based on sustainability, equity and human rights.
It will be very challenging, the odds are stacked against our favor. These dark times call for radical empathy, militant defiance, subversive creativity and enduring perseverance —from all of us.
We need to strengthen our resolve, find our courage, and fight for our future because only those who lay vigil in the darkness of night will be the first to witness the dawn’s morning light.