Palawan students lead the charge toward a plastic-free and climate-resilient future

Puerto Princesa City—Around 50 students from Palawan State University (PSU) pledged their unwavering commitment to creating a low-carbon, plastic-free, and climate-resilient university community.

The pledge was a culmination of the two-day event co-organized by The Climate Reality Project Philippines (Climate Reality Philippines) with the PSU College of Sciences and PSU Student Government entitled Klima Eskwela: Climate Science, Adaptation, Arts, and Action last 19-20 May in Puerto Princesa City.

Klima Eskwela is Climate Reality Philippines’ knowledge exchange program that provides opportunities for young climate advocates and other stakeholders to deepen and broaden their understanding of climate science, policy, and governance.

To cap off the two-day Klima Eskwela session, students recited their pledge of commitment for climate and the environment.

“Time and time again, we underscore the need to provide and enhance opportunities for young people to contribute to addressing the climate crisis and advancing sustainable development,” Nazrin Castro, Branch Manager of Climate Reality Philippines, said during the opening of the event.

Castro also recognized the leadership of the local government, local organizations, and the academe in deploying climate and environmental solutions on the ground. “Climate Reality is not here just to cascade what we know and what we want to push for in your community. We are also here to learn from locally-led actions already happening here in your city,” she said.

Dr. Ronald Edilberto Ona, Dean of the PSU College of Science, underscored the need for multisectoral collaboration in climate action.

“We all  know that climate change is a reality. We experienced it here in Palawan when Typhoon Odette hit. We know the consequences of climate change. We need to do something. Climate change is not impossible to combat. What we are doing here with our partners is to take that first step,” Dr. Ona said.

Nazrin Camille D. Castro, Branch Manager of The Climate Reality Project Philippines, and Ms. Padmapani Perez, Lead Strategies for Agam Agenda, turned over copies of Harvest Moon: Poems and Stories from the Edge of the Climate Crisis” and “Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility” to Dr. Ronald Edilberto Ona, Dean of the College of Science, and Dr. Carlos Alfonso Salvador, Vice President for STudent Affairs and Services.

Thinking globally and acting locally

“Let us act locally but think globally,” Dr. Ona reminded the organizers and participants of Klima Eskwela.
The first day of the event focused on the discussion of the best available climate science and climate change-related issues in Puerto Princesa City.
“There is a consensus among scientists throughout the world that climate change is caused by humans and not simply a natural phenomenon. Ninety-nine percent of 88,000 peer-reviewed studies say so,” Climate Reality Leader Jonathan Maldupana said as he discussed the basics of climate change, including what causes climate change and how human activities are altering the world’s climate systems.
“We are spewing 162 million tons of man-made global warming pollution into the thin shell of our atmosphere every 24 hours–as if it were an open sewer,” Maldupana said.
Mr. Earl Timbacanya, Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer IV of the City Government of Puerto Princesa, discussed the city’s climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management strategies and programs.
“Puerto Princesa City is threatened by several natural hazards associated with climatic extremes such as drought, typhoon, heavy rainfall, and geological hazard such as tsunami,” Timbacanya said. “Records on climate extremes also indicate that the city is susceptible to climate-related disasters,” he added.
Jacir Bebing, Development Management Officer of the Climate Change Commission (CCC), provided students with an overview of the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), the only national climate change adaptation fund in the Philippines.
“In 2012, na-establish ang People’s Survival Fund para sa financing ng climate change adaptation project para maitaas ang antas ng resilience dito sa ating mga komunidad,” he said, explaining the role of climate finance in addressing the climate change adaptation needs of communities.
(Translation: “In 2012, the People’s Survival Fund was established for financing climate change adaptation projects to raise the level of resilience in our communities,” he said, explaining the role of climate finance in addressing the climate change adaptation needs of communities.)
Ferth Vandensteen Manaysay, Deputy Branch Manager and Plastic-Free Reality Program Lead of The Climate Reality Project Philippines, discussed why the plastic crisis is also a climate change issue.

Climate lens of the plastic crisis

Ferth Vandensteen Manaysay, Deputy Branch Manager and Plastic-Free Reality Program Lead of the Climate Reality Philippines, discussed with the students why the plastic crisis is also a climate change issue.

“Unknown to many, plastic pollution is closely linked to the climate crisis. Almost 99% of the plastic used is derived from fossil fuels such as crude oil. The oils obtained from fossil fuels are used to produce petrochemicals that are separated to become resin, which is used to make plastic,” Manaysay shared.

“The whole plastic life cycle—from extraction, manufacture, and transport, to disposal—produces emissions that may reach up to 1.34 gigatons per year by 2030, which is equivalent to more than 295 new 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants if current trends continue,” he added.

Alonzo Peralta of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office of Puerto Princesa shared the city’s local plastic and waste management policies, such as the City Ordinance No. 993 regulating the utilization of single-use plastic and polystyrene foam in the city.

Students participate in the Poets for Climate workshop.

Creative collaboration for climate action

Climate action that is expressed through community engagements and the arts provides a more powerful message of hope and resilience. 

On the second day of Klima Eskwela, the Agam Agenda facilitated a pebble poem and art workshop, where students were given the chance to create short literary, visual, and musical pieces in response to what they learned about the climate and plastic crises.

“Pag puro statistics lang o data lang patungkol sa climate change ang pinag-uusapan natin, maraming hindi nakakaintindi. Pero yung sining, kaya niyang tumagos sa puso. At ‘yun yung isang paraan para magbigay ng kwento na maaaring maintindihan ng lahat,” Padmapani Perez, Lead Strategist for Creative Collaboration of the Agam Agenda, said during the workshop.

(Translation: “When we talk only about statistics or data regarding climate change, many people do not understand. Art has the ability to pierce through the heart. And that is one way to tell a story that can be understood by everyone,” Padmapani Perez, Lead Strategist for Creative Collaboration of the Agam Agenda, said during the workshop.)

Castro and Perez also turned over copies of the books Harvest Moon: Poems and Stories from the Edge of the Climate Crisis and Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility to Dr. Ona and Dr. Carlos Alfonso Salvador, Vice President for Student Affairs and Services of the PSU, for the university library.

Youth commitment for climate action

The workshop culminated with the synthesis of the pledge of actions each student made for climate and the environment.

On reducing carbon footprint, students collectively committed to promoting and adopting energy-efficient practices and prioritizing sustainable transportation options.

On eliminating plastic pollution, students pledged to minimize the consumption of single-use plastics and encouraging others to do the same. They also committed to promoting and engaging in waste segregation and responsible waste management practices within the university premises.

On climate resilience, students pledged to encourage research and innovation within the university community to develop climate-resilient solutions, technologies, and practices that can contribute to both campus sustainability and the wider community.

The students also pledged to serve as ambassadors of sustainability within the campus and beyond.