Put coal-fired power plants on agenda, bets told
LUCENA CITY—Religious leaders, environmentalists and civil society groups appealed to candidates in next month’s elections to put climate change, particularly the country’s dependence on coal-fired power plants, on their agenda.
“This is our challenge to the next President, to heed the call of the people and make the Philippines coal-free,” said Anna Abad, climate justice campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
She called on the people to hold big polluters and the government accountable for the degradation of the environment.
On Tuesday, the groups launched “Piglas Pilipinas,” a national campaign against coal and other dirty and harmful energy sources, as part of the “Break Free from Fossil Fuels 2016,” a global climate movement effort against key fossil fuel projects in the world.
“As this country prepares for a general election, let this question be raised and reflected on: Does not our country deserve a government that will do everything to protect Filipino families from the ravages of dirty energy and climate change?” Lipa (Batangas) Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said in a statement.
At least 25 proposed coal-fired power plants have been granted environmental compliance certificates by the Aquino administration and are either operational or under construction in the next 10 years, reports said.
Quezon province hosts two coal-fired plants—the Team Energy Philippines’ 735-megawatt plant in Pagbilao town facing Tayabas Bay whose generating capacity is being extended by an additional 420 MW with another plant, and the 1,500-MW plant in Mauban town that faces the Pacific Ocean.
In Atimonan town, Church and environmentalist groups have opposed the proposed 1,200-MW coal-fired power plant that will rise on an 80-hectare land in Barangay Villa Ibaba.
Arguelles, in a press conference, said he did not trust the five presidential candidates to support their campaign against coal-fired power plants, mining and other ecologically destructive activities.
“All candidates for President are pro-mining,” Arguelles said.
He noted that during the second presidential debate in Cebu City last month, the answers of all candidates to the issue of climate change were “evasive.” The issue is not on their list of priorities, he said.
The Lucena City leg of the campaign against coal-fired power plants started with a multisectoral prayer march participated in by at least 1,500 people. It was followed by a Mass officiated by Arguelles held at the gymnasium of Roman Catholic-run Sacred Heart College.
Activist priest Raul Enriquez from Quezon said those who came “are united in diversity,” citing their different political affiliations and views.
He shared Arguelles’ view that the presidential election is “an exercise in futility.”
“We could no longer trust the leaders of our government to save our environment. It’s about time that the people must unite and act as one to save our country from further destruction and our Mother Earth from her extinction,” Enriquez said.
He said their advocacy for renewable energy and their opposition to coal-fired power plants were deeply rooted in the people’s “yearning for the renewal and transformation of lives and communities.”
Abad said the movement’s main thrust was for the people to “vote wisely” and choose candidates who are genuine supporters of environmental protection.
“We are challenging the candidates to raise the standard of their environmental platform,” she said.
Norie Garcia-Aguilar, advocacy and partnership director of Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc. of television network ABS-CBN, said her group had been monitoring the campaign of national candidates and their platforms on the environment.
Earth Day score card
On April 22, when Earth Day is celebrated, Green Thumb Coalition will release a “score card” of national candidates to identify who among them are pro-environment, she said.
Juliet Borlon-Aparicio, Tanggol Kalikasan program director and one of the conveners of Quezon Laban sa Coal, said: “We hope that our people will have the wisdom to elect the next leaders of the government who are sincere protectors of the environment.”
Only 10 local candidates attended the event and signed the “covenant to protect the planet and the people” during the event.
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