Environmental coalition protests vs new coal plants; demands moratorium

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Green Thumb Coalition, the broadest coalition of environmental organizations in the country, called for the cancellation of the proposed DMCI 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Narra, Palawan, and demanded a moratorium on all coal projects in the Philippines in a gathering held in Quezon City.

The Palawan-based Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), headed by its executive director Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda, joined other groups that protested against coal power plants in the country.

Last week, during the Green SONA by Green Coalition, Philippine Forest Foundation and other groups held at Hue Hotel in Puerto Princesa City, ELAC likewise made known its firm stand to protect Palawan’s environment.

“It is ironic how the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would issue an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to DMCI for its coal project in Palawan when President Duterte himself is calling for a reduction of our dependence on coal energy,” said Atty. Anda.

“We hope that the DOE and DENR will heed the President’s call and not allow new coal projects in the country, especially as cleaner and cheaper alternatives are available through Renewable Energy.” she said.

“DOE’s inaction on the President’s call to pursue renewable energy contradicts its mandate under the Renewable Energy Act and the law creating the DOE,” Atty. Anda further said.

The ECC was issued by the DENR”s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) days before President Rodrigo Duterte issued a directive to the Department of Energy (DOE) to “fast-track” the development of RE and “reduce reliance on coal” during his latest State of the Nation Address.

“We appeal to Cabinet members to walk the clean energy talk expressed by the President himself during his last SONA,” said Vin Buenaagua of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).

“We reiterate the need for an Executive Order to ensure that agencies like the DOE and DENR will follow the President’s directive and send a consistent message to energy investors, coal-affected communities, and the public.” the statement read.

Civil society organizations expressed concerns regarding the livelihood of communities and natural resources in Palawan, which is among the top tourist destinations in the Philippines for its biodiversity.

“Palawan is globally recognized for its beauty, exceptional levels of biodiversity, and biological productivity,” said Atty. Gia Ibay of the World Wide Fund for Nature – Philippines (WWF-Philippines). “That and the vast renewable energy potential in the island are enough reasons for the country to reject dirty and destructive energy projects threatening its resources.” she adds.

“Energy generation with the least environmental impact should be the main criteria for power production in Palawan,” said

Sonny Batungbakal of Greenpeace-Philippines said that power sources with least environmental impact should be the criteria for Palawan. He said that our country is highly abundant of other renewable and safe sources of energy.

“The 15MW project could have been supplied by free and safe solar energy.” Batungbakal said.

Groups in the network also criticized Cabinet officials, specifically DOE, for contradicting what was seen as a positive development in energy policy.

“Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi represents the interest of coal and not of the country and the President,” said Ian Rivera of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).

“The DOE Secretary insisted that he is ‘technology-neutral’ but favors coal as baseload. He is hiding the facts that modern and latest energy planning is no longer into baseload for it is associated with an archaic fossilized old energy planning,” said Rivera.

“If they can do it in Palawan, they can do it anywhere in the Philippines,” warned Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa.

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