When dugongs, rivers go to court



PREPARATION work is ongoing on the site of yet another coal plant in Binugao in Toril District, Davao City. The project, by Aboitiz Power, has been met with protests by local officials and environmental groups. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

After communities opposed to coal-fired power plants in Mindanao failed to catch the attention of their leaders, expect dugongs, even rivers and watersheds, to file cases in court to stop these projects.

“It’s not only the people, or the fisherfolk, who can file cases,” said Juland Suazo, spokesperson of the environment group Panalipdan in southern Mindanao.

PROTESTERS wear masks at a rally against the Binugao coal plant being built amid opposition from officials of Davao City and groups campaigning against the use of coal for power generation. KARLOS MANLUPIG

“Under our environment laws, even Mother Nature can file lawsuits,” he said, citing the Clean Water Act as an enabling law for the constitutional provisions protecting the environment. “Mother Nature’s rights are supreme over the rights of corporations,” he added.

In Bolivia, for instance, Suazo said, rivers filed cases in court for having been prevented from reaching the sea. The Talomo-Lipadas Watershed in Davao City’s Talomo District, can file a similar case against the coal-fired plant “for the threats the plant presents to its groundwater, and all living things that depend on it.”

A national network of communities called the Anti-COALition has been formed to push for “clean, renewable energy sources, to exhaust all legal means to stop coal-fired plants from being built,” said Suazo, who joined a two-day environmental law workshop organized by the international group Greenpeace and held recently in Davao City.

‘Shocking’ number

Anna Abad, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the number of coal-fired plants approved in the country in the last two years alone had “shocked” and dismayed environment activists keen on reducing carbon gas emission in the planet.

A BANNER in a community in Binugao says it all. KARLOS MANLUPIG

“While all the previous administrations (combined) approved 10 existing coal-fired power plants in the country, the Department of Energy (DOE) under President Aquino approved 12 projects in the last two years alone, a number that is unprecedented, illogical and shocking,” Abad said.

“This is ironic because the Philippines consistently ranks among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Aside from the 12 coal-fired projects officially announced by the government, seven more projects are not yet officially revealed because they are still trying to secure their permits,” she said.

Campaign priority

Of the total 19 projects  still in the pipeline, six are in Mindanao, prompting Greenpeace to place its campaign priority against dirty coal on the island.

The six projects are expected to generate a combined capacity of 1,550 megawatts. These included the 300-MW project of the Aboitiz-owned Therma South in Binugao, Toril, in Davao City; the 150-MW expansion of Steag (also partly Aboitiz-owned) plant in Barangay Villanueva, Misamis Oriental; the 200-MW plant of Conal Holdings in Sarangani; the 300-MW plant of San Miguel Corp.  in General Santos City; the 500-MW plant of Sagittarius Mines Inc.  Power Corp. in Malalag, Davao del Sur; and the 100-MW plant of San Ramon Power Inc., a subsidiary of Alcantara Group, in San Ramon, Zamboanga City.

“Taking legal action to end the coal regime in Mindanao sends a clear message that communities are willing to fight for their rights,” Abad said.


Renewable energy

Clean and renewable energy is abundant in Mindanao, Abad noted, but the DOE itself is blocking the implementation of the Renewable Energy Law.

New investments in coal will lock the Philippines into dirty and polluting fossil fuel for the next four decades and will prevent the country from tapping its full renewable energy potential, Abad said. Switching to renewable energy in the next four years may only be too late because by then, all the coal projects still in the pipeline will already be operational, she added.

Environmentalists fear that the Talomo-Lipadas Watershed, which protects the city’s aquifer, an important source of groundwater, will further be strained if the 300-MW Aboitiz plant will start running in Toril.

Moreover, the Conal plant in Maasim, Sarangani, intersects with the declared marine protected areas where the dugongs were known to thrive, according to Greenpeace.

“We have tried all possible means to stop the coal-fired plants, but nobody is listening,” Suazo said. “Wait until the watersheds will come into the picture,” he warned.

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  • mon key

    San Miguel Corporation is processing their permit to set up a coal plant in Malita, Davao del Sur. When that coal plant gets approved, there will be FIVE coal plants operating in Southern Mindanao.  1.300-MW project of the Aboitiz-owned Therma South in Binugao, Toril, in Davao City; 2.200-MW plant of Conal Holdings in Sarangani; 3. 300-MW plant of San Miguel Corp.  in General Santos City; 4.500-MW plant of Sagittarius Mines Inc.  Power Corp. in Malalag, Davao del Sur; The 4 coal plants have a combined generating capacity of 1,300-MW already, then adding the coal plant in Malalag, begs the question – who will use all that electrical power and who will pay for all of these?

    • billd4

      this coal fire type boiler were the oldest and primitive type of electric generating plant. they are the dirtiest power plant that is why they are being phase out by the modern society. this people are treating the filipino as a primitive state and know nothing about this science. this is the type of power plant they use on the ship TITANIC doon sa episod ang mga operator pinapala nila ang coal para ilagay sa boiler and that was a 100 years ago well PRESIDENT ABNOY NASA 21st CENTURY NATAYO. 

      • aljess

        And what type of power generator do you know that is better to coal fired power plant? You don’t even know your technology…

      • billd4

        there are many technology out there for 20 years i had operated steam bolier driving steam turbine to drive electri generator to produce electricity and propell a us navy ship like uss coral sea aircraft carrier about a supply ship for seven fleet in the pacific one destroyer and a repair ship uss gompers. but the us navy uses the new technology AIRCRAFT ENGINE producing unlimited electricity and unlimited ship speed for the ships propulsion using jet fuel.the safetest technology of the us navy is using a nuclear power plant to produce the steam like on board uss george washington, esterprise, ronard reagan carl vinson uss nimitz. i had operated the auxilliary equipment before. 
        on my civlian life at united airline san francisco facility the used a combination of gas turbine engine and steam boiler to produce electricity
        using jet engine fuel. exhaust from the gas turbine engine goes to the inside the boiler and use the heat exhaust from the heat product of the combustion.
        in california they ban coal power plant so the state only give permit to the company that will use natural gas as fuel.

      • billd4

        my recommendation and suggestion is for president aquino to push thru and work hard to convince the foreign oil company to extract the rich gas natural gas we had on the other side of the philippine sea then we will produce the real clean energy of natural and we can built so many power plant because we will have unlimited supply of natural gas.  please don’t believe on this capitalist that they will sell anything to someone eventhou they know it will be bad for the health of the pilipino people. thank you 

      • aljess

        and do you think that the natural gas you said would be simply extracted then be used as an alternative as you said… It take years before that happen.. you should know Malampaya…it was discovered in the 70’s then it went on production on the 90’s.. 20 years of gestation… Yes, I do believed that a gas exist in the area as you said, because, for you to know, I am a Geologist… We know that.. But you cannot easily do what you are thinking..The government take the action on using the most immediate resource we have.. An I salute that..

      • aljess

        and don’t u even know that the technology improves? U seem to be an old timer that don’t even know how a technology improves…you only operate but you don’t design.. A crude method before was vastly improved today turning it into a state of the art technology… and you are thinking way back behind…

  • rey

    just wondering. can anyone provide me information on how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases the philippines contribute towards global warming? anybody, please.

    • maj0_rimbaud

      you can actually google it.

  • iping2sison

    As a young student, we learned about the majestic and beautiful Maria Cristina Falls. Then the Napocor came and build a dam supposed to provide electricity to all Mindanao. What happened next, from previous administrations to the current administration, is lack of electricity in Mindanao. Thus, Imperial Manila, has to come up with magic to provide electricity by granting licenses to big business to build coal-powered electric plants. Soon the whole of Mindanao will be covered with soot, agricultural and fishery products declined and people have respiratory ailments.

    • aljess

      much be better for you to disconnect the electrical connections of your house, then go the primitive way… then at that time hope you will realized someting..

  • billd4

    The worst power plant to produce is COAL ELECTRIC ENERGY POWER PLANT kasi once the coal is burned and goes up into the ATMOSPHERE DEFINITELY IT WILL GO DOWN ON TO THE MOTHER EARHT. once it mix with water it will turn into sulfuric acid. it is the reason why USA use natural gas as fuel on their power plant. HOY “ABNOY THE COMMUNIST PRESIDENT HUWAG MONG GAWING CHERNOBOL ITONG PILIPINAS. KASI mga komunista kulang ang kaalaman tungkol dito kaya maraming namatay na communist russian nang magka accidente sa electric power plant nila “HOY ABNOY GISING”. 

    • aljess

      And where would you like to get your electricity? The problem with you is that when power is out you curse the government.. Now that the government initiated the private sector on building power plant, you are still complaining… go, and buy a generator..

    • jopachem

      Please review your high school chemistry. Also, please read more than just qouting some informations too. Nakakahiya eh … anti-coal pa naman sana ako.

  • aljess

    The protesters shown above were again the LFS… the wing of extortionist CPP-NPA-NDF..
    The group that don’t want improvement…

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