Groups bring Anti-Coal struggle to Supreme Court
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The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, along with the communities and other civil society organizations (CSOs), filed the first ever case on coal in the Supreme Court against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Energy (DOE) for neglecting its duty to act as vanguards of energy security and environmental sustainability.
Petitioners claim that DENR has failed to fulfill its mandate to revise the emission standards, designate attainment and nonattainment areas, prescribe effluent standards, and to administratively prosecute coal-fired power plants not equipped with the Continuous Monitoring Systems (CEMS) and Continuous Emission opacity Systems (COMS) as required by the Clean Air Act. While DOE, on its part, has neglected its duty under the Renewable Energy Act to formulate the Renewable Portfolio Standards Rules and to establish the Green Energy Option Program. Moreover, despite the presence of the two laws mentioned above—Renewable Energy Act and the Clean Air Act; both agencies have allowed coal plants to proliferate, making the country more dependent on costly, dirty and deadly fossil fuel.
“We are finally filing a case to seek the intervention of the Supreme Court against an act of total disregard on the laws of the land by our own government agencies that resulted to continuously increasing number of environmental and societal damages”, said Ian Rivera, National Coordinator of PMCJ.
The Supreme Court case includes members of the community in Limay, Bataan as petitioners. Bataan is known as one of the hotspots of coal plants in the Philippines. From previous reports, environmental, health, and social impacts of coal have been recorded in the said area of the province. Early this year, Limay community members exposed the impacts of the coal plants situated in the area to the public which later on were downplayed by the coal plant owners to mere complaints and baseless accusations.
“Nagsasakripisyo ang mga tao dahil sa negosyo. Negosyong kayang impluwensyahan ang gobyernong sanang nagre-regulate ng mga kalabisan sa operasyon nila. Gaya ng pangyayari sa amin sa Limay, kami pa ang mukhang sinungaling dahil kami ay nagrereklamo sa perwisyong dulot ng operasyon ng coal plant. Sari-saring sakit ang pabalik-balik na dinanas namin, wala na kaming tubig, ang mga halaman namin ay sinira na rin nila. Maya’t maya naglilinis kami ng mga abo na ibinubuga ng planta nila na ultimo ang karapatan namin sa malinis na hangin at disenteng panirahan ay ipinagkait na sa amin. Negosyo ang iginigiit nila samantalang karapatan namin para sa isang maaayos na pamumuhay ang kanilang tinatapakan” said Cheryl Magracia, a resident from Brgy. Lamao in Limay, Bataan.
(“People are sacrificing because of business—business that are allegedly being used in influencing the decisions of our government. Just like what is happening to us in Limay, we are accused of being liars because we are exposing the inconveniences of coal operations. Every minute we have to sweep away the ashes coming from the coal plants. Our right to a decent and normal living has been downplayed by the assertion and securing of profit”)
Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of Center for Ecology, Energy, and Development (CEED) said that this case also seeks accountability in upholding our commitment in implementing the recently signed Paris Agreement. “The issue of climate change, as it appeals to the people, is a matter of responsibility of sustaining and caring for our home which we expect to emerge from the initiatives and regulations of the government. Sadly, some people like our leaders in DENR and DOE cannot even take responsibility of doing so despite being under the mandate of such implementing rules and even after our country has committed to a global agreement”, Arances added.
Despite having the Renewable Energy Act and Clean Air Act, coal’s share in the energy mix ballooned to 47.7% last 2016 from 25.9% of 2008.
“If we let this continue, the projection is it will rise up to 70% in the year 2030. We should do something to hold these agencies accountable. While they are setting this country in a lock-in to dirty fossil fuels, they have always had the way out for all the negligence they had done in implementing the regulations”, Arances added.
The Supreme Court case was filed by individuals and groups namely Toribio R. Ortega Jr., Nestorio A. Castro, Rosalina R. Aritmetica, Cheryl L. Magracia, Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) Inc., Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Inc., SANLAKAS, Inc., and Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), Inc.