Youth leaders call on President Duterte for green and just ‘Better Normal’

Ahead of the State of the Nation Address on July 27, Filipino youth leaders from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, presented a declaration calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to ensure that recovery plans from the COVID-19 pandemic lead to a green and just “better normal” that puts the interests of the people, especially the youth, front and center.

The declaration, called the “Better Normal Youth Agenda,” highlights three key demands as part of a roadmap for a better post-COVID normal: promotion of youth participation within a democratic society, prioritization of solutions to the health, food and climate crises, and placing people at the center of local and national policy-making.

The agenda is an outcome of a series of consultations with youth and other sectors, including the recently concluded Classrooms for Future (CFF), a virtual advocacy learning hub which aims to develop youth leaders and champions from all over the country. CFF is organized by Greenpeace Philippines, I Am HampasLupa, STEP Philippines, Youth Strike for Climate Philippines, and Greenducation Philippines.

“The pandemic has shone a light on the numerous inadequacies in the system and also our country. Now more than ever, we need concrete solutions to secure our future and that of the next generation as we tackle problems of greater magnitude like the climate crisis. We call on our fellow youth to join us as we seek actions for a better normal. With our future on the line, we cannot stay silent,” CFF graduate Francine Pradez said.

The consultations showed that youth are anxious about the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. Part of the concern is how COVID has in turn magnified rising threats of militarization, red-tagging and deprioritization of people’s needs. But this has not deterred today’s youth from action. “We commit, collectively and individually, to do our part by being active citizens not only for the benefit of fellow youth, but also for the Filipino people. However, we believe that action from all levels of government, as well as democratic processes that enable people participation in nation-building, are key to realizing the better normal,” the declaration read.

The youth leaders emphasized that the government must also put climate action at the center of government-led recovery plans to build the country’s resilience from future pandemics and climate emergencies. This can be achieved by crafting laws and national policies seeking to shift to renewable energy, transition to sustainable and resilient food systems, ensure green and livable cities that support sustainable mobility, and promote zero-waste living.

Youth Strike for Climate Lead Convenor Jefferson Estela said, “As a sector that has always been at the forefront of movements especially in the protection of our environment, I believe that we should defy the normal because normal is the problem. We should make a better one for a brighter and greener future for all generations to come it will start from a just and human rights-based governance.”

”Young people represent more than half of the Filipino population. We are not just fighting for ourselves and our future, but for the well-being of every Filipino alive and yet to be born. Just as COVID19 exposed broken systems that need to be fixed, it has also shown us an opportunity to fix not just the pandemic, but bigger problems, such as the climate crisis. Our future is at stake, the youth are relentless in demanding action—we cannot stand a government that does not listen,” said Greenpeace Campaigner Kisha Muana.