Groups launch nationwide opposition vs coal-fired power plants
COMMUNITY representatives from sixteen provinces around the country today called on the government to abandon coal energy expansion and instead ensure the country’s sustainable development with a future powered by clean, peaceful, renewable energy.
In a solidarity move, the members of anti-coal groups from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao convened at the country’s capital to publicly denounce the Philippine government’s coal projects through a manifesto signed during the National Anti-Coal Summit organized by Greenpeace.
“Communities are the ones who are paying the price for the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel. Coal use endangers the well-being of families and the environment. In every place where coal is mined and used to generate power we find communities suffering environmental damage and health problems. Burning coal also accelerates climate change whose extreme weather impacts have already costthe country thousands of lives and billions of pesos in losses,” said Anna Abad, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Anti-coal communities have been actively waging their own battles against coal power companies and with their local governments to demand for the closure and cancellation of coal power plants in their respective areas. To date, there are nine coal plants in operation in the country, with 12 more in the pipeline. According to Abad, communities who will end up hosting these plants would be living under the shadow of life-threatening toxic emissions, destroyed livelihoods and greater water scarcity.
“If the proposed coal power plant pushes through in our town, it would be like living a death sentence,” says Josephine Pareja of Talisayan, Zamboanga. A barangay captain, Pareja is the most outspoken critic of the proposed Aboitiz coal plant in Talisayan. “All the toxic emissions of the coal plant will eventually end up in our bodies. Department of Energy (DOE), please have mercy on us residents,” she pleads.
Coal, one of the leading causes of climate change, also endangers the health and livelihood of communities. As a primary source of air pollution, it contains a lethal mix of sulphur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain; the greenhouse gas nitrogen oxide (NOx); and heavy metals like mercury (a powerful neurotoxin), arsenic (a carcinogen), as well as lead and chromium.
“Solutions are available to reduce our dependence on polluting, dirty and deadly coal energy. The government must prioritize and support green investments which will help put the country on a low-carbon growth pathway, instead of pursuing investments which are harmful to society, peace and order, and the environment. This way, further human and societal damage, as well as ecological degradation and devastating climate change impacts, can be avoided,” said Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
During the Summit, communities, together with Greenpeace, signed the “People’s Declaration Against Coal and In Support of Clean Renewable Energy” which demands that the Department of Energy take immediate action to protect the well-being of communities by:
• immediately cancelling all new coal power and coal mining projects and phasing out existing coal facilities;
• implementing and enforcing the Renewable Energy Law; and
• increasing the country’s renewable energy targets to facilitate a massive uptake of clean sustainable energy in the country.
The National Anti-Coal Summit was organized to raise the concerns and voice the national opposition of coal communities. Attendees were composed of environmentalists, lawyers, church & civil society representatives from Bataan, Batangas, Cebu, Davao, Davao Del Sur, General Santos, Isabela, Misamis Oriental, Negros, Iloilo, Palawan, Sarangani, Subic, Zambales and Zamboanga. The event included lectures by legal and scientific experts on the health and socio-economic impacts of coal. Present to lend their support to the anti-coal movement were Naderev Saño, Commissioner on Climate Change, Attorney Ipat Luna, a known environmental lawyer, and Dean de la Paz, Associate Professor at the Ateneo de Manila University.