An Open Letter to all MERALCO Shareholders
On the occasion of the Annual Shareholders Meeting of the Manila Electric Company
[This letter is also published in the May 26, 2020 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.]
We are the Power for People Coalition (P4P), a coalition of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, and cause-oriented groups who advocate for the right of Filipinos to enjoy access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity. We write to you, the Meralco shareholder, in the hopes that you will be able to bring before the Meralco Board of Directors our appeal for policies to benefit all Filipinos and help secure your investments in the company.
Meralco, for the longest time, has used coal-fired power plants to produce the electricity it then transmits to its franchise area. While this may have made sense in the past when people did not understand the drawbacks of coal, the continued reliance of Meralco on coal endangers not just the environment, but also the health of Filipinos, their right to affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity, and your investments as a shareholder.
Coal is dirty, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, responsible for much of the pollution that now drives the climate emergency. The increasing frequency of more virulent storms which kill more people, destroy more crops, and damage more infrastructure are becoming the new normal due to the continued use of coal. As of now, the Philippines, despite being one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, is also one of the most dependent on coal, a state of affairs for which Meralco is partially responsible for.
Coal is deadly, from its extraction to its use. Many respiratory illnesses can only be seen, or mostly seen, among coal miners, throughout the centuries. When burned in power plants, they pollute the air and water of the communities which host them, communities who do not benefit from the power produced, but are yet saddled with the cost of caring for their sick even as coal by-products destroy the environment they rely on for their living. And no, the “clean coal” touted by Meralco’s Atimonan One project does not help, since any pollution not released into the air will be released to the water or ground anyway.
Coal is costly, as it is primarily imported, subject to fluctuations in foreign exchange and supply issues. While of course, Meralco can always, and always does, pass on the cost to consumers, this does nothing to endear your investment to consumers, as the current controversy over the ECQ billings makes clear.
Coal is a bad investment, as regulatory changes and pressure from consumers around the world create a business climate hostile to coal. Moody’s changed its outlook to negative on coal. Leading banks and investment firms such as BNP Paribas, BlackRock, even local conglomerate Ayala Corporation, have all announced their divestment plans from coal in recognition of the business situation of coal. You need only check the status of your company’s Atimonan One project to see for yourself that this will also happen in the Philippines.
Coal is unnecessary, as renewable energy is now more profitable and even more reliable than coal. We saw how coal power plants failed when pushed to the limit during the summer of 2019, and we see it causing grid instability today. Renewable energy is the best and only investment that can meet the needs of investors, climate, and development.
Change is about to happen in the world, and you as a Meralco shareholder can help bring it to the Philippines. Through the exercise of your rights, you can help bring about energy transformation in the Philippines, led by Meralco. Your own President and CEO, Ray Espinosa, said, “As we celebrate the World Environment Day, we announce that we are developing 1,000 MW of renewable energy projects in the next 5-7 years, joining the inexorable shift to renewable energy and the adoption of sustainable practices in everything we do.” He announced this last year, and you can begin by asking him what has happened to his proud promise.
Meralco has been part and parcel of the country’s history and economic transformation since its establishment. As the world begins to focus on sustainability, Meralco can be the pioneer in this country. And you, as a shareholder, can start the process.
POWER FOR PEOPLE COALITION
CBCP – National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP – NASSA/Caritas Philippines)
Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED)
Freedom From Debt Coalition (FDC)
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA)
Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP)
Bantay Kita (BK)
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz, Zambales (CCOS)
Ecological Justice League – NCR
Focus on the Global South
Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) Pilipinas
Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Philippines
Green Thumb Coalition (GTC)
Koalisyon Isalbar Ti Pintas Ti La Union (Save the Beauty of La Union Coalition)
Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita ng Lungsod (KPML)
Leaders for Excellence, Action, and Development (LEAD-CHE)
No to Coal in Quezon
Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)
Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) Philippine-Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI)
Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights (LILAK)
Quezon for the Environment (QUEEN) SocSarGen Cared
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines
Youth for Climate Justice (Y4CJ) – Davao
Youth for Climate Justice (Y4CJ) – Misamis Occidental
Youth for Climate Justice (Y4CJ) – Eastern Visayas
Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH)