People’s orgs reject SMC’s coal ventures

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/27 Feb) — Two people’s organizations based in the coal-rich village of Ned in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato rejected over the weekend the proposed coal-fired power plant of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp, which the Aquino government is backing “as the solution to Mindanao’s looming power supply shortfall.”

In a joint statement, the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimant Organization (Tamasco) and the Hublag Kontra Mina (Hukom) manifested their opposition to San Miguel’s coal mining project which straddles agricultural and ancestral lands in the mountainous area.

San Miguel, through its subsidiary, San Miguel Energy, has acquired Daguma Agro Minerals Inc. and sister-company Bonanza Energy Resources Inc. as well as Sultan Mining and Energy Development Corp. (SMEDC) which hold coal operating contracts for production and development in an estimated 17,000 hectares of land.
The diversified Philippine conglomerate earlier announced plans to build a mine-mouth coal-fired power plant following its entry into the Lake Sebu coal reserve. MindaNews tried but was unable to contact SMC for comment on the position of Tamasco and Hukom.

Energy officials headed by Secretary Jose Rene Almendras recently visited Lake Sebu town to dialogue with local officials in line with the efforts of the government to avert a crippling power supply shortfall in Mindanao.
The Department of Energy placed the total mineable reserve at the coal mine site in Lake Sebu at an estimated 70 million metric tons, which can possibly support a mine-mouth power plant with a projected capacity of 740 megawatts for 25 years.

Datu Victor Danyan, Tamasco chair, criticized Almendras, stressing ‘the government has never run out of propaganda just to cuddle multinational companies and siphon huge money.’
“The secretary is shaping up our minds that the current energy reserves are thinning.  This scenario is orchestrated to condition the people that there is no other way for a stable energy in the country but to accept the environmentally-destructive coal-fired projects,” Danyan said.

For her part, Yellen Zata of Hukom, chided Almendras’ claim on “responsible site rehabilitation,” pointing to the state of the test pit mines in Sitio
Tafal in Barangay Ned.
“Tell us Mr. Secretary, how the damaged site (can) be brought back to its original form? Even the test pit mines in Sitio Tafal were left open and
wasted. That’s impossible. I never knew any mining area in the world that was restored to its original form,” Yata said.

In October 2009, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources granted Sultan Energy Philippines Corporation, a subsidiary of SMEDC, an Environmental Compliance Certificate to conduct test mine operation in Sitio Tafal in Barangay Ned.

Hukom and Tamasco called on the administration of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to reconsider its energy security framework without
compromising the lifeblood of indigenous peoples and people in the upland communities.

To show that the Aquino government genuinely respects the rights of indigenous peoples over their territories, the groups  challenged the
President to push for “energy sovereignty that would give people the freedom to resolve for a sustainable energy generation, distribution and

Jean Marie Ferraris, team leader of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan Davao Office, stressed that “energy  sovereignty will uphold the right of people to have access to energy and to decide over their sustainable energy sources and consumption patterns.”

Meanwhile, the SoCSKSarGen Climate Action Now (SCAN), an environmental group also based in South Cotabato, pointed out that coal-fired power plants “have significant contribution to climate change because of its emission of massive carbon dioxide and greenhouses gases like methane, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.”

SCAN chair Sr. Susan Bolanio said that in achieving energy sovereignty, “there should be decentralization of energy generation, supply,
administration and management, community control of technologies, elusion from privatized technological dependency and increased democratization of decision-making and access to control of energy production.”

“Those are just some of the prerequisites for energy sovereignty, the most imperative here is the sincerity of the Aquino government to resolve the present depressing plight of the indigenous peoples and other upland rural communities that are seriously affected by the encroachments of
corporations,” Ferraris said. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)