Luzon Energy Gathering Challenges Government: Coal is Not the Answer!

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Quezon City – Representatives from communities and civil society organizations gathered at UP Institute for Small Scale Industries (UP-ISSI) to denounce the worsening condition in their communities due to presence of coal-fired power plant, coal mining and coal stockpile in their areas.

Communities hosting coal fired power plants from Bataan, Zambales, Batangas, Quezon and Tondo where a huge stockpile of coal is located, met and discussed the different day to day problems encountered as result of exposure to coal projects.

“Coal is a real menace for host communities. Our experiences in Brgy. Lamao in Limay and Brgy. Lucanin in Mariveles, where San Miguel Power Corporation operates a 140 MW coal-fired power plant and is now building a 900 MW also in Limay, reveal an alarming rise in respiratory related diseases, and skin irritations. Most of those affected are the elderly and the young people”, said Derek Cabe of Nuclear Free Bataan Movement (NFBM).

“The presence of a huge coal stockpile in Limay only aggravates the already worrisome health situation in the area. Residents have resisted the continued operation of the stockpile and have risked their lives and limbs opposing coal projects ultimately calling for their immediate cessation and removal. Gloria Capitan’s murder highlights this reality”, Cabe added.

Capitan was gunned down inside her store in Brgy. Lucanin of the said town. She led the local resistance against the stockpile.

PMCJ has noted an onslaught of coal plants in the Luzon Island. From the 22 existing, an additional of 8 coal fired power plants with 16 boiler units are already in the pipeline. Communities in Bataan, Quezon and Batangas will be severely affected when these plants will start operating.

“We cannot overemphasize the adverse health and environmental impacts of coal projects like coal plants, coal mining and coal stockpiles. A Harvard University led Study released earlier this year looked at the impacts of coal plants in the Philippines. The study evaluated 13 operating coal plants coupled by 29 proposed coal plants should they come online revealed a high of 2,410 deaths every year due to exposure to heavy carcinogenic metals. At present there are already 22 coal plants with 42 boiler units operating”, lamented Ian Rivera, National Coordinator of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).

“The Government can no longer allow the construction of new coal projects. The cost of the impacts will surely outweigh the benefits that only end up in the pockets of owners of coal projects,” Rivera added.

Marian San Jose, a resident of Aroma Village in R-10, Tondo, Manila who lives near a coal stockpile amplified the call against coal projects. “The presence of coal stockpiles in populated communities is a hazard that only worsens living conditions in slum areas like ours. Everyday our houses, clothes and everything around are covered with coal dust coming from the stockpile. We are breathing air contaminated with coal dust”, San Jose said.

The whole day gathering organized by PMCJ aims to draw up unities to resolve the problems besetting coalaffected communities like that of Bataan and Tondo.

PMCJ will raise the issues and sentiments of said communities before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The group has previously called for a moratorium on the issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) to coal projects.

“More than a moratorium, we urge the DENR to review the ECCs issued to coal projects and revoke uponfinding of serious breach compromising the health and environment of host communities. Even pending a review, there is without doubt clear and present danger arising from continued reliance in coal projects for the country’s energy requirements. Coal-burning has been identified as the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions that is causing climate change. For a country identified as vulnerable to climate change impacts, promoting coal borders on the criminal as it would surely undermine the resiliency of communities to address climate change impacts from extreme weather events such as Yolanda to slow onset impacts like extreme El Nino.”, argued Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary-General of Sanlakas and Head of Energy Working Group of PMCJ.

“It is high time to put the Duterte Government to task. While we agree with the need to pursue a development track intended to uplift the country from the clutches of poverty and want, we reject the dirty track being undertaken to achieve this. Coal is not the answer. Our potential to generate 200,000 MW of electricity should be argument enough to abandon the Government’s addiction to coal”, Pedrosa concluded.

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