Mindanaoans, environmental groups slam Duterte’s inauguration of Misamis Coal plant
Groups advocating clean, affordable and sustainable energy expressed dismay over President Rodrigo Duterte’s support for coal, manifested in his attendance in the inauguration of the Filinvest Misamis Power Corp. (FDC Misamis) 405-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental.
Duterte’s coal support contradicts election promises
Roldan Gonzales of Gitib Incorporated, a Mindanao-based resource center for sustainable development, expressed disappointment over Pres. Duterte’s presence in the inauguration, as included in the President’s promises was increasing the share of renewable energy in the country.
“It is quite disturbing that the President, while saying in 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 Gonzales.
Gonzales said that while they recognize that there is a need to address the massive energy poverty in the Philippines, especially Mindanao, they believe that coal is the not answer to their problems. “Coal will only pollute our water and air resources, and will have massive impacts on our health and livelihood,” Gonzales said.
“This inagauration of Filinvest Misamis Power Corp. (FDC Misamis) is a hard fact that Mindanao is now in true danger of a much higher cost of electricity and a much hazardous environment” Lourdes Anabieza of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Western Mindanao stated..
Anabieza said that Mindanao consumers enjoyed the cheapest electricity rate during previous years when more than 50% of our electricity rely on the electricity generated from Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Plants. But as the share of coal increased to 40.2% against 22.2% of hydro in the Mindanao mix in 2015, electricity rates skyrocketed. “That makes us wonder: where is the cheap coal they are claiming? How many more lies would they create just to justify their greed?” Anabieza asked.
Duterte’s coal support contradicts science and economics, groups say
“FDC Misamis vice chairman Andrew Gotianun Jr.’s statement saying that the plant’s ‘circulating fluidized bed boiler (CFB) technology’ counts as clean is a dirty lie,” said Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa.
CFBT, referred to by coal companies as “clean-coal”, utilizes limestone during coal combustion in order to supposedly decrease air pollution. However, Pedrosa cited scientific findings by Harvard University which showed that CFBT only lessened sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, not carbon dioxide, which is primarily the cause of global warming. Data also showed that coal plants using this type of technology produce four times more coal ash than conventional ones.
Pedrosa urged President Duterte not to trust those who keep peddling the blatant lie that there is such a thing as clean coal. “Coal is not only dirty because of the harm it does to the environment and livelihood of coal-affected communities, it is dirty with the blood of those who have died because of climate-induced disasters, like droughts and devastating storms,” Pedrosa said. “There is no debate that we need to industrialize and develop, but it is scientifically proven that coal is not the fuel for our future,” he concluded.
Gerry Arances, Convenor of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) pointed out that coal has been increasingly found to be not just a health and environment risk, but also a risk to the economy.
“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 also pointed out that 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.
According to Arances, coal has eaten up and continues to dwarf the share of renewable energy in the Philippines’ power mix, with renewable energy’s share decreasing to 29% this 2016 from 34% in 2008. “At present, 70% of power projects to go online in 2019 will be from coal. This means that by 2021, the overall dependence to coal will be at 50% as compared to 39% in 2016,” Arances said.
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.
“At present, 200,000 MW worth of clean renewable energy remains untapped. Given its potential and the harmful effects of coal, it is clear that renewable energy provides a better path for development,” said Atty. Pedrosa. “What is needed from the President is the political will to encourage greater support for renewable energy,” he concluded.