Greenpeace Southeast Asia

From the Solar Cafe Point of View by Chuck Baclagon

We arrived on site early in the morning to set up the Solar Cafe, our venue for engaging the community in what we were doing at the proposed coal plant site. From a distance I could see the volunteer-filled inflatables waiting by the coastline, and the sight of the approaching Rainbow Warrior and all that it stood for still made me catch my breath, even as I was apprehensive about how the first few hours would turn out. Somehow the shipís presence gave me reassurance that everything was going to be okay, that our teams would be safe, and that we would be able to deliver our message loud and clear.

There was a bit of a standoff when the barangay captain first arrived. His vehicle was about 20 meters away, headlights flashing, but he wasnít approaching or getting out. At this point my mind couldnít help but play western movie music as I wondered if and how he would make the first move.
Well, the media decided for us since suddenly they were everywhere, interviewing representatives of the Responsible Ilonggos for Sustainable Energy (RISE), the barangay captain, and our Greenpeace campaigners.

We had several confrontations wherein we tried to appease those who came and tried to stop us, to the extent of them pulling down our streamers. The barangay captain kept insisting that had we followed procedures and given notice, he would have given his support. Sure. Then there was that whole hullabaloo about PPC owning the land and the access road we were on, so we had to move two meters back from the shoulder of the road, and that the land owner of that land instructed the barangay captain that we couldnít stay there, when in fact we had the land ownerís full support to set up the Solar Cafe, with the help of our RISE allies.

When they realized they couldnít kick us out, the pro-coal leaders immediately launched their own impromptu ‘rally,’ calling on their allegedly paid supporters and trying to put their pro-coal streamers over ours. The police arrived in several batches and were surprised and amused that instead of finding violent protesters and trespassers, they found volunteers serving them fruit shakes with a smile.

At the height of the sunís heat, things calmed down for us at the Cafe and the scene started looking like a picnic, with our friends from RISE bringing in food, Manong Buko delivering fresh coconuts, and our Cafe Manager serving us coconut shake, guaranteed to make you forget your name. I was still worried about our team in the Camp, and had my eyes glued to what and who was coming in and out, since we were along the way of the only land access to the site where the Camp was built. Nothing out of control, thankfully, as far as when we pulled out the Solar Cafe at around 6pm after a small forum with community members.

Our day with the Solar Cafe ended with village children posing for our cameras, the Rainbow Warrior at a comfortingly close distance, and an orange sunset reflecting off the fishpond waters ñ a nice scenery if not for the belching smokestacks from the diesel power plant in the background. I looked towards the Camp several ponds across and silently wished my fellow Climate Defenders safety for the night. Tomorrow will be another day.

Tanya Conlu

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