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Environmental groups oppose proposed coal-fired power plants

View Coal-fired power plants for commission until 2020 in a full screen map


GROUPS opposed to the building of 25 coal-fired power plants within the next six years gathered outside the gates of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday, International Earth Day, as a sign of protest.

Members of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) walked from the Bantayog ng mga Bayani along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City and continued with the program in front of the DENR’s main office along Visayas Avenue. An estimated 200 participants joined the rally.

DENR is the agency that issues Environmental Clearance Certificates for the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

Lawyer Aaron Pedrosa, head of PMCJ’s Energy Working Group said this proposal expressly contradicts the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chance Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC-AR5).

According to the report, one of the leading causes of climate change is the high concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The construction of the 25 proposed coal power plants would increase carbon emissions in the country by 52.82 million metric tons, the report said.

Instead of investing in coal power plants as an energy source, Pedrosa suggested the improvement of sustainable, clean, and renewable options. “We should lead the call for the transition to renewable energy systems,” he added.

Pedrosa added that the people in the communities should be involved in the decision-making, contrary to the corporate-driven Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) implemented today.

“You have a PEP that encourages private sector participation and investment in dirty and harmful energy processes. It is because (private investment) is easier and faster to commission,” Pedrosa said.

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice gathers outside the DENR main office to protest the proposed construction of 25 coal-fired power plants.

However, these plants may be cheaper short-term, but its long-term effects are more devastating, he added.

PMCJ is also lobbying for the improvement of existing renewable energy sources throughout the country, like the Angat Hydropower Plant in Bulacan and the Tongonan Geothermal Powerplant in Leyte.

They also encourage the communities to create off-grid energy sources independent from big energy corporations.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said the proposed power plants are unnecessary. “Hindi kailangan itong mga proposed na coal plants na ito, kasi hindi supply ang problem natin, kundi distribution (Additional powerplants are not necessary because the problem is not supply, but distribution),” he added.

Garganera said geothermal and hydropower plants are more than enough to supply energy for the country, but the Aquino administration does not appropriate budget for the power plant maintenance.

He added that although it is initially more expensive to maintain these renewable energy sources, in three to five years, the geothermal and hydropower plants will be cheaper to operate than the proposed coal-fired plants.

These coal-fired power plants are also set to be constructed in regions that do not need them, Garganera said. These power plants will provide energy to mining projects and plants, instead of to the communities. “Hindi nagtatayo ng coal plant para sa economic development ng lugar (These coal plants are not for the economic development in the area),” Garganera said.

Ireneo Cerilla, president of Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) said communities in Semirara Island in Antique are in danger of being displaced because of the expansion of a mining plant owned by Semirara Mining Corp.

The mine has already affected the quality of the seaweed in the island, which is the main livelihood of the residents. The seaweed is deformed, and less fish is harvested due to the pollution caused by the mine.

Most of the mass action participants were members of the youth from the alliance. PMCJ Campainger Val de Guzman said these events are for the future of the youth. “We are doing it not for today, but for the future generation,” de Guzman said.

PMCJ is an alliance composed of different sectoral organizations that include SANLAKAS, Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod, Kilusan sa Pambansang Demokrasya, Freedom from Debt Coalition, ATM, Alliance of Progressive Labor and PAKISAMA.

(The author is a University of the Philippines student writing for VERA Files as part of her internship.)