In 2013, Yolanda ravaged the Philippines, taking away thousands of lives and leaving behind hundreds of mangled bodies in the streets. What happened next was the circus we all saw on international channels - the paralyzed disaster efforts that barely reached remote villages, the missing relief money that supposedly flowed from politician to locality, the unmistakable stench of death in the air.
But the lesson flew past us. The Philippines is home to over twenty operating coal-fired power plants with twenty-nine more in the pipeline, relying mostly still on fossil fuels despite multiple warnings of even more extreme climate change due to increased temperatures giving way to stronger weather events. The President himself graces the opening ceremony of new players in the game. Development is king here - but the price of these steps towards a more robust economy is paid for by the health and human rights of the most vulnerable communities.
In Cebu, a new plant shares a wall with an orphanage. In Bataan lies the memory of Gloria Capitan, an anti-coal activist who was shot dead by a still unidentified man, a shrapnel grazing the cheek of her grandchild. In La Union. In Negros. In Zambales. The death tolls, the respiratory disease statistics, the intimidation cases soar. The stories go on.