Climate Justice Group urges World Bank to stop investing in Coal Plants

Not everyone may think that the Philippines is one country that is living in a precarious unavoidable situation due to climate change. The past decade had been a harrowing experience of the country being successively battered by extreme weather events, strong typhoons now beyond the scale of normal, droughts that are becoming extraordinary due to magnitude and prolongation. Many of those victims have still not recovered their normal lives. The loss and damage are extremely unbearable.

The Philippine government, knowing the disastrous impacts of climate change of our country has fought hard for an average global temperature that is just for vulnerable countries to survive. Everyone knows that climate change is the single most urgent challenge that humanity is facing today. And that continuous burning of fossil fuel particularly coal business as usual will shortened and narrow the gap for survival. There is now global impetuous that many countries are now phasing out the use of coal and new demands for energy are being addressed with clean and safe renewable energy.

However, this is not the case in the Philippines. According to Ian Rivera, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice National Coordinator, “energy development relying on coal still corners financing portfolios. The reason for this is the continuous support of World Bank’s International Financial Corporation on coal despite the serious policy shift last 2013 that the Bank will virtually stop its support for the construction of coal fired power plants. There are now a total of 20 coal fired power plants financed by IFC financial intermediaries in the Philippines. These plants have created myriad of problems and strings of human rights issues against the Philippine communities, environmental issues and forced the relaxation or dilution of the country’s environmental standards.”

The Bank has funded GN Power Mariveles Coal Plant Ltd. Co., which is located in the province of Bataan, in Luzon Island. The GN Power Mariveles Power Project is a 600 MW coal plant that became operational in April 2013. The plant is currently in the process of being expanded to 1,800 MW.

The resistance of the communities against this plant has cost the life of climate Justice Activist Gloria Capitan.

Last July 1, exactly the day where the new Philippine President Duterte took oath of office, Ate Glo was taking care of her grandkids inside her store, two unidentified men parked their motor vehicle near Capitan’s residence. One of the men alighted and approached Capitan and put an arm around her, took out a gun and shot her neck.

Ate Glo was very active in the fight against the Mariveles Coal Plant and led in a series of mass actions and petitions calling for a permanent closure of a coal stockpile in their village. The coal stockpile has posed serious health and respiratory problems in her community. Ate Glo was just fighting for a cleaner air and clean environment which this coal plant has destroyed. Her community’s source of livelihood in Barangay Lucanin in Mariveles, Bataan has been contaminated with coal ash, and residents have acquired skin diseases. The resident of the barangay has seen the effects of this waste as the community experiences high morbidity of upper respiratory diseases.

Ate Glo died at the age of 57, leaving her 18 kids and grandkids.

Another GN Power Plant, this time in the little town of Kauswagan, in the province of Lanao del Norte, in the island of Mindanao, southern part of the Philippines is also being funded by IFC. GN Power Lanao Kauswagan power station is a 540 MW coal plant that will cost an estimated $1 billion.

Construction began in late 2014.

Prior to its construction, communities have blocked this coal power plant. Notable of whom are the small farmers and artisanal fisher folks of the town and the neighbouring towns of Kauswagan, Maigo and Colambogan, all in Lanao Del Norte Province. The plant has already destroyed a two hectare fish sanctuary of the town which is supposedly protected by Philippine Laws. Dislocated more than 1,000 families of farmers and fisher folks and terrorized families who are opposed the plant. A disqualified Mayor Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan who was responsible for the approval of the coal plant threatened all local individuals and advocates who are openly against the plant. He maintained a private army to carry out these threats and intimidations. The plant also gave way to a quarrying operation that eventually destroyed the water sources of the communities of Kauswagan.

If this plant will become operational, it will affect the rich fishing grounds of Iligan and Panguil Bay, two of the bays which are traditionally rich fishing grounds. There are three provinces that serve as boundary of these bays, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga del Sur. There are 35,000 artisanal fisherfolk and families who depend their livelihood in these two fishing grounds.

Another IFC funded coal power plant also in the island of Mindanao and has been operating last 2015 is the Davao Therma South Power Station is a 645 MW coal-fired power station under development in the district of Toril, Davao City in Davao del Sur province. There are many issues that this plant has encountered when approval was sought. Despite the strong opposition of the people of Davao City, the city council, this was under then Vice-Mayor and now President Duterte passed the resolution approving the construction of the plant. The plant is right in front of Davao Gulf which is also a traditional fishing ground of two provinces.

Currently, the plant has affected the residents of the three barangays Binugao, Inawayan and Sirawan.

Closed to 67,000 residents are living in these three barangays. The ancestral land of a Muslim tribe of Calagan has been forcibly taken by the power plant. Hundreds of artisanal fisherfolks can no longer fish in the municipal waters while residents are complaining of depletion of water table and increase of respiratory infections.

The Filipino communities living near these coal plants wanted these plants stopped. They have no place to go and their history is in these places. The communities have already felt the observable impacts these plants have caused.

According to the Harvard University led study on the impacts of coal plants in the Philippines on the health. The study evaluated 13 operational coal-fired power plants in the Philippines with a combined installed capacity of 3,799.10 megawatts (MW), as well as the potential impacts of plans to build 29 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 11,700MW, which could dramatically increase levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and PM2.5 emissions. If the new power plants are to be developed, premature deaths may rise up to 2,410, or more than double the current number of people dying from coal-related pollution in the Philippines.

Of the 23 coal plants existing and operating in the Philippines 7 out of 23 is funded by IFC while 13 out of 36 – in the pipeline are due to operate between now and 2022. “The 13 coal plants have a combined 9,000 MW of power. If these will be allowed to operate, by 2022 our power mix will be more than 70% coal. Our country will be locked in with coal by and there will be no room for renewable.” Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, the head of PMCJ Energy Working Group stressed.

“World Bank’s withdrawal of its investments from these 20 coal plants will help the Philippine’s pursue the low carbon scenario and achieved the 70% carbon emission reduction it committed in the Paris Agreement. There is no other way but to stop funding coal plants in the Philippines or else they are fueling the climate crisis and burning the future of the nation!” Atty. Pedrosa continued.