Protests vs continued coal use greet new DENR leadership
While Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has barely warmed his seat in the Cabinet, protesters took to the streets in Bataan, Leyte and Cebu against the government’s environment policies.
About 70 Olongapo folk picketed two coal-fired power plants in Limay and Mariveles in Bataan, complaining about illnesses attributed to the operation of the two plants.
The protesters formed a human chain demanding that power companies shift to renewable energy and opposed the rejection of former environment secretary Gina Lopez, whom Cimatu replaced.
In Tacloban City, at least 200 members of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice also protested Lopez’s replacement with Cimatu.
There was also a rain-drenched protest in Cebu City with at least 60 members of Sanlakas protesting Lopez’s replacement and objecting to a planned coal-fired power plant in Barangay Sawang Calero, Cebu City.
Residents near coal-fired power plants have been complaining about illnesses that are associated with wind-blown and soil-seeping ash produced by coal-fired plants.
But the conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, which operates coal plants through the San Miguel Corp.-Consolidated Power Corp. and Petron Corp., maintains there is no proof linking coal plants to their illnesses.
However, Derek Cabe, coordinator of NFBM and Coal-Free Central Luzon, said communities near coal plants had been complaining of diseases that were not common before the coal plants were put up.
“We believe that the present situation would further worsen the sufferings of the communities as reforms would be disregarded and discontinued,” Cabe said.
Inday Magracia, secretary of Limay Concerned Citizens, said residents would continue to resist the operation of coal-fired power plants in their communities.
“Our children continuously suffer from various skin and respiratory diseases because of the polluted air around the coal plants,” Magracia said.
In a pastoral letter released on Wednesday, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos also urged the government to drop coal and pursue renewable sources energy.
“We already have four power plants, three coal, one petrol here in Bataan. They contribute enough to our country. We ask you, do not add to these. Enough. Our province is not a garbage bin,” he said.
The bishop was referring to the Refinery Solid diesel-fired power plant, San Miguel Global power, Panasia power plant and GN power plant.
Santos renewed his appeal for the government to be open to other alternative sources of energy.
In Tacloban, PMCH regional coordinator Larry Pascua said that while they were not totally against Cimatu’s appointment, they hoped he would follow up on the orders issued by Lopez.
“We challenge Secretary Cimatu to stand firm for the interest of the environment and for the interest of the people,” Pascua said.
He linked Cimatu to several companies involved in environmentally sensitive businesses, like Alsons Consolidated Power of the Alcantara family.
“We will keep a close watch on him. The gains and decisions made during the leadership of Secretary Lopez should be continued, if not, strengthen by Secretary Cimatu,” Pascua said.
Teody Navea of Sanlakas in Cebu City also made the same warning during a protest against Cimatu.
“It is unfortunate that Lopez was replaced by a military man. What does a military man know about the changes needed in the department?” he said.
Navea said that having Cimatu as environment secretary was like designating a security guard to protect the interests of companies destroying the environment.
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