Climate Justice Group Condemns San Miguel Corporation and Petron, Demands Closure of The Petron Coal Plant in Limay, Bataan

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), the largest climate justice group in the Philippines, calls for the urgent cessation of the operations and construction of the existing coal-fired power plants in Limay, Bataan owned by San Miguel Corporation and Petron due to incessant reported environmental and health cases.

Based on a report released by Metro Central Luzon-CLTV 36, a local station based in Pampanga, and ABS-CBN News, residents of Barangay Lamao in Limay complained against the ashes spewed from the SMC owned Petron Plant.“’Yung mga dati naming pastulan ng hayop at pinagkukunan ng tubig at isda, wala na, natuyo na dahil sinira na nila”, said Angelyn Bolitres, resident of Sitio Pexsite in the said barangay, whose father died last September due to a lung problem. “Maging ‘yung pananim naming hindi na namumunga, kung meron man, ‘yung mga bunga puro na rin abo. Para bang nalulusaw na sila sa tinatapon na abo ng mga planta na ‘yan”, Bolitres added.

The residents said they have been raising their complaints to the government agencies concerned for the past four years since they have experienced, not just drastic changes in the environment, but also deteriorating health conditions manifested by different respiratory and skin diseases. “Yung mga anak namin, hindi na nawawalan ng ubo at sipon. Baka hindi namin alam may sakit na rin sa baga. Paano ba nama’y pati pagkain at inumin namin nalalagyan na rin ng abo”, said Bolitres. People of Sitio Pexsite are confident that these health conditions are caused by the operations of the nearby plants and even encouraged the Department of Health to conduct an open investigation since the local offices of the affected areas are not cooperative to the demands of the residents. “Ilang beses na ho kami nagpadala ng sulat hanggang sa provincial, ang sinasabi ay karapatan daw ho ng kapitan kung maglalabas ito ng medical records o hindi”, said Florante Pascual, President of Federation of Lamao Concerned Citizen, Inc. in his interview in CLTV36. Residents said that the highest percentage of mortality rate has been recorded in Limay in the last four years.

“This is just one area that is greatly affected by the environmental and health violations of these CFPPs in Bataan.

We also have other areas that experience more abuses like demolition and forced eviction of the residents without decent relocation to give way in the expansion of coal plants”, said Derec Cabe, Coordinator of the Nuclear Free Bataan Movement. “Now that the issues of the resident of the Sitio Pexsite were raised, it’s about time we also look into the situation of other towns in Bataan. Sooner or later, barangays surrounding these coal-fired power plants will experience the same on their lands”, Cabe added.

“We have a big enemy to fight here in Bataan aside from the worst environment and health effects. Residents who have been actively voicing out their sentiments about the atrocities are being threatened and killed”, Cabe added.

Gloria Capitan, a known environment crusader campaigning against the coal stockpile in their community was a resident of Brgy. Lucanin in Mariveles, Bataan. She was shot dead by an unknown gunman last July 1, 2016. The town of Mariveles hosts a 600 MW coal plant and another 1200 MW in the pipeline. Both are owned by GN Power of the Ayalas.

As of today, Limay, Bataan has a 140-MW operational Petron coal-fired power plant and 300 MW San Miguel Power Coal Plant. This is on top of another 300 MW plant with ECC and 600 MW seeking ECC approval. An Environmental Compliance Certificate is required by DENR before any energy company can start building a power plant. If all these plants will be operational, a small town such as Limay will be producing 1,340 MW of electricity sourced from coal compared to the 400 MW of electricity power demand of the whole Central Luzon.

Every day, the coal energy companies in Bataan, considering the strategic value of energy supply the plants are producing, holds a powerful spot on the lives of the people in Bataan. “Environmental Compliance Certificates, although required, are not enough to protect the people from human rights violation and different types of sickness.

We want these coal plants to totally stop operating”, Cabe added.

“But come to think of it, a province such as Bataan, with a daily electric power consumption of 67 MW a day but producing almost 50 times of its province’s power consumption for Luzon or a total of 3,140 MW will definitely be that detrimental to the carrying capacity of the province—much more of the two towns Limay and Mariveles where this energy is produced and whose people are already languishing of the impacts. If the local, provincial and national government will not wake up to this tragic reality they might be considered complicit to the proliferation of the coal plants and of killing the people.” Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Sanlakas Secretary-General and head of the PMCJ Working Group on Energy said. “Right now, not only in Bataan but provinces like Batangas, Cebu, Davao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, and Quezon Province where the proliferation of coal plants in these corridors are happening. If the policy on coal as a fuel for development remains, what use will this development be to the people if we are also killing our people”, Atty. Pedrosa continued.

The Philippines’ overall energy mix for 2017 has already been dominated by coal and at 40%, coal will definitely be the elephant in the room once more coal-fired plant will be operational from now to 2022. “More coal-fired power plants would mean higher incidence that this type of disaster will happen anywhere in the country where coal plants are operating. It has been proven many times that coal plants are a threat not just to our environment but to our people. A 2015 University of Harvard Study on coal impacts in the Philippines mentioned 2,410 Filipinos will ultimately face untimely deaths due to coal impacts. What the residents in Brgy. Limao in Bataan experienced is a disaster waiting to happen. We should not let these happen to other areas of the country. The government is obliged to ditch coal if it is sensitive to the trail of destruction it has caused. Besides it will still be the government footing the medical bills and cost of environmental rehabilitation of the damage these plants will cause”, Ian Rivera, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said.

“It’s about time we prioritize the renewable energy technology to answer our industrialization needs. We will never go wrong with RE. And for this to happen, the Duterte administration should push through with the pending Energy Policy Review of the Climate Change Commission which has been placed on the back burner for almost a year now.”, Rivera of PMCJ added.

Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of Energy recently released a cease and desist order on the reported operating coal-fired power plants in Limay, Bataan. But as of press time, the plant is still reportedly operating. The secretary also demands both managements of Petron and San Miguel Corporation to shoulder all the medical expenses of the residents affected by the said incident.

“We commend DENR’s decision to stop the operations of Petron Coal Plant. Although it is not enough that Petron and SMC shoulder all the medical expenses of the residents. What is important is to demand from these companies full accountability. An investigation must be done to hold these violators accountable”, Rivera said. The group also demands to hold a separate independent investigation on how the ‘bottom ash’ wastes are being disposed of by coal plant operators.

“The struggle against the effects of coal still has a long way to go. We need the help of the residents, like those in Bataan, to join us in this fight in protecting our environment and the rights of the people and our future”, Rivera added.