‘Development without coal is possible’: Groups call out Duterte for supporting coal

A day after his first State of the Nation Address, sectoral and environmental groups expressed dismay in President Duterte’s pronouncement supporting the continued use of coal-based energy.In his speech addressed to both Houses of Congress and the Filipino public, Pres. Duterte called out US, China and European countries for the massive carbon emissions they ‘spewed,’ while professing that the Philippines needs coal in order to accommodate the need for its own industrialization.

“Let us be very clear on this: We need to industrialize. We need the power and, therefore, the emissions would also be considered,” the President said. “I intend to do something during my term. Now, I’m sure that the heavy machineries would come in and even the power, cheapest is coal,” he stated further.

The SANLAKAS multi-sectoral coalition pointed out the contradiction in Pres. Duterte’s pronouncements in his support for both renewable energy and the continued utilization of coal-based energy. “It is quite disturbing that the President, while professing support during his campaign that he supports the transition from coal to more renewable energy to address the Filipino people’s power needs, would at the same time prop up the continued operation of one of the most dirty and destructive energy sources,” said SANLAKAS Secretary General Aaron Pedrosa.

While recognizing that developing countries like the Philippines needs to insist developed countries have greater historical responsibility in reducing emissions and funding climate finance, Pedrosa emphasized that the country also needs to make sure that it will not fall into the same coal-addiction rich countries espoused which led to the destruction of the climate.

“Coal is not cheap. As one of the most vulnerable countries to the disastrous effects of climate change, we have experienced firsthand the cost of continued dependence on industries which rely on dirty energy sources like coal, which is the number one source of carbon emissions in the atmosphere,” Pedrosa added.

“Unlike renewable energy like solar power, coal needs to be imported and transported making it more costly in the long run. Hydro power generated from Agus Pulangi in  Mindanao costs less than a peso compared to electriciity generated from coal plants which costs P4-6. Factor in social, health and environmental costs usually externalized, coal is anything but cheap.,” Pedrosa said.

Coal will hinder development, groups say
Environmental groups specializing in energy policies in the Philippines even went as far as saying that coal will not aid, but hinder the country’s development.

“More and more countries and financial institutions are withdrawing support from coal due to the large and growing consensus that the costs and risks ascribed to it far outweigh the energy it would provide,” said Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) Convenor Gerry Arances.

“A recent Oxford study has found that the establishment of new coal plants will likely be ‘stranded assets,’ which means that it will be more costly for the country’s economy to keep them running once they go online,” Arances stated. “This must be seen with the recent surge of renewable energy as an alternative to fossil-fuel based energy sources, as RE technologies are increasingly becoming cheaper and more RE investments are coming in,” he added.

Arances noted that given the rise of renewable energy, the Philippines might miss its opportunity to pursue cleaner, more sustainable energy alternatives.

“Unlike coal which is now nearing its end, renewable energy technologies will only become more accessible and reliable in the future,” Arances pointed out. “This means that the cost we may be paying for transitioning to renewable energy will actually be lower compared to allowing more coal power plants to proliferate,” said Arances.

Arances welcomed the Energy Review recommended by the Climate Change Commission and is now being implemented under the Duterte administration. “At present, this review shows that we are at a crossroads. We are presented an opportunity to curb our emissions while at the same time provide affordable, accessible clean energy sources to Filipinos.”