Atimonan church, residents want Meralco-A1E coal project out

Church clergy and goers, youth, fisherfolk, and advocates for the environment in Atimonan, Quezon joined together in prayer and devotion as continuing effort to resist the 1,200 MW coal-fired power plant project of Atimonan One Energy (A1E), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), which endangers the health of residents and nature. 

The event, entitled Panalangin ng Bayan para sa Kalikasan, was held Friday afternoon at the Our Lady of Angels Parish on the occasion of the 6th anniversary of the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the proposed plant. 

“Coal has been poisoning Quezon for years. We’ve seen the effect it had on other towns like Pagbilao and Mauban, and can say for certain that we want no more of it for our people. On top of this, the climate crisis makes it clear that the use of coal and all other fossil fuels needs to end. The cry of the Earth and of affected communities against coal is deafening, and A1E has to stop pretending it could not hear it,” said Fr. Warren Puno, Atimonan parish priest and Director of the Ministry of Ecology of the Diocese of Lucena. 

Quezon is home to 2.2 GW of operating coal power plants and, until recently, had a coal pipeline that could spike its installed coal capacity to over 5 GW. 

“The unity of the people of Quezon and others who care for the environment already forced many proposed coal projects in the province to be cancelled. That A1E’s coal plant still has not seen the light of day despite having been issued an ECC as far back as 2015 is because we in the community never welcomed it with open arms. We hope Meralco could take the past six years as a lesson and abandon its coal plans,” said Jay Lim, Project Manager at local environmental protection group Tanggol Kalikasan (TK). 

Quezon residents, church representatives, and civil society groups have been actively opposing the A1E project for years, with a complaint filed against it at the DENR in 2019 for failure to meet environmental and community education requirements. Last year, the groups also called for the half a decade old ECC to already be considered invalid. 

“Six years have passed since the project was given an ECC, and it is more than reasonable to assume that much has already changed in the baseline characteristics considered to evaluate the project’s potential impacts and mitigation measures. In this amount of time, many climate science findings also came out that make it clear any new coal means trouble especially for climate-vulnerable groups. Any attempt to continue pursuing the Atimonan coal plant is thus uninformed by latest science,” said Avril De Torres, Research, Policy, and Law Program Head of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED). 

With the prayer activity, residents urge Meralco to abandon its coal plans and instead pursue projects that would truly benefit the environment and communities. 

“Meralco and A1E need to leave coal in the past, and will do well to show leadership in caring for the environment by turning over instead to developing renewable energy in Quezon and other areas in the Philippines. On our part, we will not stop until the Atimonan plant is finally cancelled,” said Ramon Grimaldo of TK, Atimonan fisherfolk leader.