Greenpeace’s ship brings story of hope, justice to Yolanda victims

THE five-day visit of Greenpeace’s campaign ship, “Rainbow Warrior,” in Tacloban City brought survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) together to weave stories of hope and demand for justice through a “human library” four years after the cyclone.

The ship docked in Tacloban City on February 28 and will stay until March 5.

Joanna Sustento, Yolanda survivor who now works for Greenpeace, said that along with the visit of the vessel is the staging of “LIVErary,” a show on “how we, as a climate-impacted community, is constantly rising up amid adversities, reclaiming our lives, and aiming to be the generation that no longer waits in the sidelines, but are already in the frontlines taking action.”

“Personally, I am very thrilled to have the Rainbow Warrior come and listen to our stories, because ever since I started sharing my own, I felt more empowered to do more, and I just want my community to feel the same. Because as I always say, once a community feels empowered, change will follow,” added the 26-year-old typhoon survivor who also joined Greenpeace on its other climate campaign in the Arctic last year.

According to Sustento, the “LIVErary” will be “collecting and connecting peoples’ stories, as well as surfacing stories yet untold, of the impacts of the climate crisis on our rights as human beings.”

“If these stories continue to be heard and shared through our listeners, we can inspire and empower communities to do just the same. These stories are what Yolanda left us, these stories are what we can contribute for us to create the change we want to experience,” Sustento, who lost most of her family to Yolanda, told SunStar.

Yolanda claimed over 6,000 lives and displaced over four million people when it hit the central Philippines on November 8, 2013.

The "LIVErary," with 20 "living books," is composed of individuals from the academe, arts, marine science, and informal sectors, among others. The show is open to the public from March 1 to 4.

Call for climate justice

Known as an iconic ship of global environmental campaigning, the Rainbow Warrior's visit in the country is part of its Southeast Asia “Climate Change and People Power” tour to highlight the role of communities in pressuring governments and corporations to take immediate action on climate change and to protect the human rights that continue to be threatened by its impacts, Greenpeace said.

The Rainbow Warrior visit in Tacloban was joined by climate campaigners in Southeast Asia like Yed Saño, executive director; Amalie Obusan, country director; and Desiree Llanos Dee, climate justice campaigner.

Aside from Sustento, also onboard are Greenpeace's international climate justice champions Ingrid Skjoldvaer, Kelsey Juliana, and George Nacewa, with the ship captain Hettie Geenen.

The group said they come "to express solidarity and a unified call."

“Responsible countries leave their oil in the ground. Norway claims to be a climate hero but continues to drill in the Arctic. This violates our constitutional right to a safe environment and is deeply unfair to those already affected by climate change and future generations,” said Skjoldvaer, former chair of "Nature and Youth" and another book in the LIVErary.

"After the Rainbow Warrior leaves Philippine shores, the eyes of the world should be on the Inquiry Room at the Commission of Human Rights of the Philippines on March 27 and 28, as it has the potential to shift global understanding of corporate responsibility for climate change," he said.

"The rights of future generations and of communities made vulnerable by climate change -- those least responsible but bearing the brunt of the consequences, including the poor, elderly, Indigenous Peoples, women, LGBTQIA+, children, persons with disabilities, migrants -- must be at the center of concern, rather than the bottom lines of fossil fuel companies,” said Dee in a separate statement.

“This is a global journey of justice where we will continue to remind people of their own power and the power of their stories,” she added.

The national inquiry was triggered by a petition filed at the Commission in 2015 by representatives of communities across the country.

"Apart from survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, petitioners include fisherfolk from Alabat, communities living in the shadow of the Bataan coal power plant, and civil society groups, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines. The first of currently five planned public hearings will take place on March 27-28 in Manila, followed by two more hearings in the Philippines as well as one in the US and one in Europe during the second half of the year," stated the petition.

Shell, BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ENI, ExxonMobil, Glencore, OMV, Repsol, Sasol, and Suncor are among the 47 companies being investigated.

The Commission will conclude its investigation by the end of this year and issue its recommendations in early 2019.

Church's support

Meanwhile, Greenpeace’s call for environmental protection and climate justice also earned the support of the Catholic church.

“As Catholics, we should be mindful that we are stewards of God's creation,” said Sister Gemma Dela Cruz of the Daughters of St. Paul congregation in Tacloban.

“Pope Francis said in one of the encyclicals entitled Laudato Si that ‘the earth is like our sister whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.’ It is our obligation to take care our Mother Earth because as co-creatures she is now groaning, suffering, and she needs our love to protect her,” she added.

“In this way, we obey God's will and unite ourselves with the Earth who protects and gives us life as well,” she added.

Dorirai Picson, 42, a member of Archdiocese of Palo lector ministry in Palo, Leyte, said that "religious people of whatever affiliation have the call for nature preservation."

“In it is a way to preserve life, dignity of every human," Picson said. (SunStar Philippines)
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