Green energy groups mark Independence Day with call for energy sovereignty

The Power for People Coalition (P4P) on Friday called on the government to commemorate the country’s 122nd Independence Day with a clear policy on energy independence through the use of renewable energy and withdrawal from its dependence on imported coal.

Coal, one of the greatest contributors to the climate emergency, is the single largest source of power for the Philippines, despite it being imported and subject to foreign exchange and market fluctuations.

“Before, independence was primarily a political objective. If you have your own flag, your own government, your own army, you are independent. But in this age of globalization, true independence is primarily economic. You cannot be truly sovereign unless you control your source of energy to power your economy,” said Gerry Arances, P4P Convenor and Executive Director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development.

The Philippines has over 250,000 megawatts (MW) of potential renewable energy production according to the Department of Energy, but has not made any serious move to wean itself away from coal, with disastrous effects on the price of electricity, environmental protection, and health care.

“Our dependence on coal furthers the degradation of our environment due to pollution. Aside from the cost of importing coal and the resulting high electricity rates, we are also paying for it at the cost of strong and more frequent typhoons brought by climate change and health care costs for coal-affected communities,” said Ian Rivera, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

The effects of coal use have caused many financial giants, such as the investment company BlackRock, the bank BNP Paribas, and even the local conglomerate Ayala Corporation, to declare their divestment from coal, potentially stranding millions of dollars’ worth of coal projects in the country.

“By insisting on coal, we are working against a worldwide trend. We will pay for our use of coal yet again as banks and investors flee from coal, leaving coal developers with assets that cannot be made use of. These stranded assets, costs and profits that energy corporations and power monopolies will lose but are not willing to do so, will be passed on to the power consumers, translating to even higher electricity rates which Filipinos are made to pay unjustly. We too are bound to payments of debts brought about by onerous contracts of our government with coal developers, and at this time of the pandemic, true independence for every Filipino should mean not paying debts we do not owe,” said Zeena Manglinong, Executive Director of the Freedom from Debt Coalition.

Arances said that any economic development produced by the government is meaningless when it is based on energy that is beyond government control.

“We can be the richest economy in the world, but we will still be easily destroyed the moment coal becomes unavailable or is made unavailable. True independence requires we take complete control of the electricity which sustains our economy,” said Arances.