Atimonan residents hale DENR to court over power plant concerns

Clean energy advocacy groups, both based in Atimonan, Quezon and national organizations, on Friday filed a Petition for Writ of Continuing Mandamus with prayer for Temporary Environmental Protection Order against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the Forest Management Bureau (FMB), and Atimonan One Energy, Inc. (A1E) at the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City in connection with the 1,200 MW Coal-Fired Power Plant project in the town and the inaction of the respondent government agencies to residents’ concerns.

The petition was filed on behalf of the residents of Atimonan by Monsignor Emmanuel Ma. Villareal and Rev. Fr. Warren Puno for Quezon for Environment (QUEEN), Simproso Opalda, Jr. of Atimonan Power to the for People, Airene Bianca Manansala for Kabataan para sa Kalikasan ng Atimonan (KAPAKANAN), Rodante Andaya for Kaakbay Atimonan, the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), and Sanlakas.

“Matagal na kaming nagtitiis sa mga paglapastangan ng A1E sa kalikasan sa Quezon. Patuloy ang deforestation sa project site ng power plant, kahit dalawang taon na simula nung unang nagsampa kami ng reklamo sa DENR. May dalawang complaint kami sa EMB at isa sa FMB, pero walang nangyari dito,” said Andaya.

The complaints to the EMB and FMB stemmed from the violation of Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and tree-cutting without permits.

“His Holiness Pope Francis said that the Earth is our home and we should protect it. But as much as we want to do our part and fight for the environment here in our home province of Quezon, what can we do if the DENR, the primary government agency supposed to help us in this task, does not do anything while trees are felled for a power plant which will belch even more pollution to destroy the environment and the health of Atimonan residents? We hope that the courts will be able to do what the DENR has been unwilling to do,” said Fr. Warren Puno, who also serves as Parish Priest of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Atimonan.

Residents, together with CEED, PMCJ, and Sanlakas, have long fought against the construction of the power plant, due to its use of highly polluting coal which will negatively impact the environment and the health of the host community.

“We can see that even before a coal power plant is built and becomes operational, it already destroys the environment, and our government does nothing. Coal is expensive, unreliable, and toxic to people, plants, and animals. We hope that the court will listen to the plea of the people of Atimonan and enforce the law to protect their environment,” said Avril de Torres, head of Research, Policy, and Legal at CEED.