Two young environmental activists, Mitzie Tan and Jonathon Bonifacio, came to COP 26 bringing their messages of protest to the governments gathered in Glasgow, from a country already in the grip of a climate crisis.
The Philippines is reckoned to be the third or fourth most at-risk country in the world from climate disasters. It is the most exposed country in the world to severe tropical storms, while drought is also becoming a severe problem.
Like most countries in the South, the Philippines is suffering from climate change effects which have been mainly caused by the economically powerful countries whose industrialisation was built on the exploitation of their old colonial empires. Western affluence continues to be fuelled by the exploitation of poorer countries.
The elite politicians in the Philippines have been made rich through their eager facilitation of such exploitation. President Duterte is no different. His recently launched “Build, build, build” national development strategy, opens up the country to foreign investment in open cast mining, hydroelectric dams, and supersize plantations, while further destroying fragile and environmentally valuable habitats.
Those who try to protect the environment are labeled terrorists by the government and have frequently been victims of extra-judicial killings by the military. According to Global Witness the Philippines is one of the top three most dangerous places in the world to be an environmental defender.
Yet British mining companies and banks continue to make profits from environmental destruction in the Philippines, while the UK Government (along with the US and Australia) provides funding and assistance to the Philippines military which implements Duterte’s repressive “anti-terrorist” campaigns.