Groups ask PNoy to junk coal-fired power plants in Mindanao

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/17 August) – Environment groups today called on President Benigno S. Aquino III to scrap current energy plans for Mindanao saying these rely heavily on building new coal-fired power plants “that will only exacerbate poverty and armed conflict”.

Greenpeace and its allies said these power sources would not really contribute to economic and social development in Mindanao, but instead worsen carbon concentration in the area.

The groups issued the call during the first Mindanao Anti-Coal Forum held Wednesday at the Ecoland Suites in Davao City. They alleged that government and power firms have been pushing for coal-fired power plants without properly consulting local communities and other stakeholders.

“Coal is a common curse for communities living in its shadow. In every country where coal is mined and used to generate power, we find communities suffering the impacts from environmental damage and health problems,” a statement quoted Greenpeace Southeast Asia officer Amalie Obusan as having said.

“Burning coal also accelerates climate change which impacts communities especially for places like the Philippines, which is among the world’s most vulnerable and least prepared to deal with climate change,” she added.

“The extraction and burning of coal is perilous for communities in Asia living near mines or in the vicinity of power plants. Local people are susceptible to various ailments including respiratory diseases, cancer, liver failure and birth defects. The worst impacted among them would be children and pregnant women. Clearly the future of Mindanao is in danger unless we change the path we are taking right now,” said Lia Jasmin Esquillo of Dabawenyos Ayaw sa Coal.

There are currently five coal-fired power plant projects in the pipeline in Mindanao. These are the 300-megawatt plant in Davao City proposed by Aboitiz Corp., the 200-MW plant in Maasim, Sarangani and the 100-MW plant in Zamboanga City by Conal Holdings Inc., the 300-MW plant by San Miguel Corp. in General Santos City, and the 500-MW by Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Malalag, Davao del Sur for its copper-gold mining venture in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

In addition, Steag is expanding its coal-fired power plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental by 150-MW in partnership with Aboitiz Power and the La Filipina Uy Gongco Corp.

Greenpeace said these projects would close out the renewable energy option even if the latter would achieve parity with fossil fuels in terms of cost within the next five to seven years and eventually become cheaper.

It attributed the impending rise of these coal-fired power plants to the increasing mining projects and other industries such as cement and shipyards in Mindanao.

“The proposed project in Maasim threatens not only communities around the site, but also the rich Tinoto-Tampuan coral reef, which is now a protected area, located right across the proposed coal-fired power plant site,” the statement said.

“These dirty energy projects threaten Mindanao’s agricultural gains and will endanger our drive towards food security.  Other social issues, such as the displacement of indigenous peoples, are also on the rise with such projects, and mine sites are also militarized, all of which further fuel social conflict in the area,” said Tom Villarin, Executive Director of Sustainable Integrated Area Development Initiative in Mindanao – Convergence for Asset Reform and Regional Development.

Greenpeace said Mindanao’s energy requirements by 2020 can be met by renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal which, it noted, are abundant in the area. (MindaNews)