Mindanao communities to take legal action vs coal power plants

GREEN groups in Mindanao representing six provinces today declared their intention to explore legal options in their fight against dirty coal power projects in the region.  At a joint press conference with Greenpeace, the group also announced the founding of Anti-COALition, a national network of communities which aims to ensure the country’s has a future powered by clean, peaceful, renewable energy.

“The weekend seminar on Environmental Law made us more aware of our basic rights to demand that the state protect its citizens from environmental harm and degradation”, said Julad Suazo, a community leader from Davao.

The declaration came at the conclusion of the network’s two-day seminar-workshop on Environmental Law, organized by Greenpeace in partnership with the Ateneo Public Interest Legal and Advocacy Center. Participants discussed laws protecting land and sea ecosystems, indigenous people, and biodiversity as well as civil legal procedures that can be used in environmental cases.

“Everywhere around the world, coal power plants victimize communities. They create health problems for people living around the facility, and damage their environment and their livelihoods,” said Anna Abad, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Taking legal action to end the coal regime in Mindanao is a clear message from communities that they are determined to stand up and defend their rights against the oppressive Goliath that is the coal industry. Clean, renewable energy sources are abundant in Mindanao. Green investments from renewable energy technologies are what the Department of Energy should instead be developing in a massive scale” she added.

There are currently ten coal plants in operation throughout the country, but the DOE is officially planning to add 12 more within the next four years. Unofficially the list could go up to 19. This will further lock the Philippines in to dirty and polluting fossil-fuel for the next four decades.

Mindanao is the “new frontier” for dirty coal power projects for a total output of 1,550 megawatts in Davao, Davao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, General Santos, Saranggani, and Zamboanga.

Emissions from coal plants are a primary source of air pollution: they contain 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. Coal is also a leading cause of global climate change – the extreme weather impacts of which have already cost the Philippines thousands of lives and billions of pesos in losses.

In Davao, the construction of coal-fired power plants will displace thousands of families and will diminish the Dumoy aquifer’s capacity to supply water for drinking and other domestic needs to Davao’s 1.4 million inhabitants. In Saranggani, a coal plant currently being constructed right beside a marine sanctuary will damage the surrounding marine ecosystem and endanger the livelihoods of local fishermen.

“We have tried all possible means to stop the coal-fired power project from pushing through but no one is listening. Now more than ever, we are more united and firm in our opposition to any energy development plan that prioritizes coal corporations, over the well-being of present and future generations of Filipinos,” Suazo declared.

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