Environmental groups gather to condemn coal, push for renewable energy

Two weeks after an anti-coal activist was slain in broad daylight, advocates gathered to condemn coal as a source of energy and reignite the campaign to shift towards renewable energy sources.
In the ‘Ending the Age of Coal’ Media Launching and Forum organized by the International Coal Network and its ally organizations in the Philippines, Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) Convenor Gerry Arances highlighted the growing international movement opposing the proliferation of coal projects across the globe.

“Since 2005, it is troubling that the installed capacity of coal-fired power plants have risen by 35% globally despite of coal accounting for 44% of global emissions from fossil fuels according to the International Energy Agency (IEA),” said Arances.

It is a well-documented fact fossil fuel burning, primarily coal plants, are one of the main source of global warming and climate change that has affected the Philippines and other vulnerable countries tremendously.

“In the past few years, however, many countries like Norway, Denmark and even state governments from the United States have stopped funding coal projects, as a response to growing pressure from grassroots movements and environmental lobbyists,” he added.

Arances also highlighted that governments from all over the world, like China and India, have begun to phase out coal operations in their country, not only because of public demand, but because of risks to their developing economies.

“A recent study from Oxford University has found that coal power plants are more and more becoming ‘stranded assets,’ meaning they are likely to be kept running in spite of the technology being obsolete and unprofitable economically,” Arances stated. “This means that while renewable energy sources are increasingly becoming more affordable, countries like the Philippines will end up being bound to an outmoded, costly, and destructive energy resource if we keep pursuing coal as an source of energy,” he continued.

“We should not subject Filipino consumers to this costly and dirty energy source” Arances asserted.

Coal-related killings condemned, PH anti-coal movement ‘alive and well’
“Last July 1, Gloria Capitan, a fellow anti-coal activi of ours was brutally murdered in Mariveles, Bataan, where she led her community to stand against coal operations in their area,” recalled Philippine Movement for Climate Justice National Coordinator Ian Rivera.

Capitan has worked hand in hand with PMCJ, an organization of 109 multisectoral organizations, through her group, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD).

“As we remember her legacy, as well as the lives of those who were killed in Bangladesh and Indonesia for opposing coal operations in their respective countries, we also bear in mind that the anti-coal movement has never been stronger than it is now,” Rivera stated.

Rivera noted that while there are 29 proposed power plants adding to the 15 already existing in the country, a number of significant developments have been reached by the anti-coal movement in the country.

“With the Climate Change Commission (CCC) subjecting proposed coal projects under review for six months, as well as the pro-renewable energy pronouncements expressed by the newly-elected President Duterte and his DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, we can say that the movement for a more sustainable, people-centered energy system is only getting stronger,” said Rivera.

Rivera noted that in order for the Philippines, one of the most vulnerable countries to effects of climate change, to keep its intended nationally-determined commitmment (INDC) to reduce emissions and combat the rising global temperature, it must begin the transition away from the world’s leading cause of climate change: Coal.

Meanwhile, forum Batangas City Councilor Kristine Balmes of the Archdiocesan Movement for the Environmment (AMEn) recognized the efforts of different sectors, including religious groups, in on-going struggles against coal projects.

“In Batangas City, a recent decision by the City Council has allowed the construction of a 600 MW coal power plant near the Verde Island Passage, a center of marine biodiversity in the country and the world,” Balmes said. “Despite this, the community as well as people from civil society, and the Church, continue to be vigilant in its opposition against the project, and has recently found ally with the provincial governor who has vowed to oppose the project.”

Balmes noted that the strong anti-coal stance of Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles was instrumental in the thousands-strong mobilizations in Batangas City these past months.

Challenge is coming from pro-coal cabinet members, group says
SANLAKAS Secretary General Aaron Pedrosa highlights that challenges to renewable energy do not only come from business interests or local government patrons, but also from the Duterte Cabinet.

“Despite the strong pronouncements against coal shared by both the President and the DENR Secretary, the shift from coal to renewable energy is being challenged by cabinet members like Alfonso Cusi of DOE and Sonny Dominguez of the Department of Finance, who are beholden to mining and dirty energy interests,” said Pedrosa.

The rift between Lopez and Dominguez has been recently reported due to their conflicting views on mining and coal.

“What we need is for the President to step in and let his pro-renewable energy stance during his campaign prevail as part of his promise of change to the Filipino people,” Pedrosa concluded.