Video: Meet young Filipina who led the march of 2,000 protesters at COP28 UAE

Pang Delgra explains why environmental activists were not only calling for an end to fossil fuel but also the cessation of Israeli bombings in Gaza


Angel Tesorero

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Photos from APMDD
Photos from APMDD

Published: Wed 13 Dec 2023, 8:27 PM

Last updated: Mon 15 Jan 2024, 7:24 AM

‘What do we want? Climate justice; When do we want it? Now!’

A strong sense of urgency led the chant, followed by continuous calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

It was the largest demonstration at the UN Climate Summit in Dubai. At the forefront of the march of 2,000 protesters was a young climate activist from the Philippines – Pang Delgra, 28, who works as a climate justice team staff at Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).

“Climate justice is anchored on the protection of human rights,” Delgra told Khaleej Times, explaining why environmental activists were not only calling for an end to fossil fuel but also the cessation of Israeli bombings in Gaza.

“If we talk about climate change, bombs and bullets are actually more lethal than floods and global warming. And we cannot deny the fact that the ones supporting wars – not just in Gaza – are also the biggest polluters in the world,” she added.

Fiery voice

Delgra, who stands barely five feet tall, has a fiery voice and demeanour that can agitate protesters. She further explained: “When we are calling for climate justice or the accountability of big developed nations in global warming, we are also raising their culpability in supporting wars of aggression."

“Let’s take the US for example – it has pledged a measly $17 million for the Loss and Damage Fund to protect vulnerable communities, but supported Israel with billions of dollars in war funds.”

“Where is justice in that,” Delgra, who was wearing a keffiyeh and red shirt that says ‘System change, not climate change’, underscored.

Watch a video of the protest here:

(Video by Angel Tesorero)

Liberal thinking

Delgra admitted that she may sound too radical for the conservatives. But her liberal thinking did not come out of the blue.

She finished Business Administration from the University of the Philippines – Diliman, the topmost university in her home country, and worked for a multinational company.

It was there that she saw how “the rich exploit and oppress the poor in the name of profit.”

She quit her job in 2018 and joined World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a Swiss-based international non-governmental organisation working for preservation of the environment, before moving to APMDD as part of its climate justice staff.

Environmental awareness

Her environmental awareness, however, started when she was in grade school. “It was in 2006 and our Grade 4 teacher made us watch Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and that prompted me to become conscious in not throwing rubbish anywhere,” she said.

“But I felt it was not enough. I realised there were bigger issues than just being conscious of your trash. So I began to ask questions – why are the glaciers melting? Who is really responsible for global warming and environmental degradation? All the liabilities lie at the feet of big nations like US,” she added.

“So, I told myself: ‘Something has to be done. We could not just only hope for the best and the supposed benevolence of exploiting countries. If we wanted them act, we must pressure them to do so,” Delgra continued.

“If we don’t act, who will? If not now, when?” Delgra added, quoting a favourite mantra by activists for urgent action.

People united

Asked if she sees activism being rendered futile by big corporations, Delgra said: “On the contrary, we have put them on the defensive and exposed them for their aggression. We have seen when people unite for a cause, reforms happen.”

“The Loss and Damage Fund that was made operational in Dubai is fruit of our collective action. We have worked before and throughout the year after it was introduced during COP27 in Egypt. Now, there is an actual fund that would support vulnerable communities,” Delgra noted.

She added: “At COP28, we have seen collective action at work. It was my first time to lead a huge crowd of protesters who came from various countries and different political persuasions. And it actually reinforced my conviction that I was doing the right thing for the environment and the people.”

“I see myself continue fighting for climate justice and human rights.”


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