Greenpeace activists dumped half a ton of coal at the entrance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, DENR, on Thursday and unfurled a banner with the message "Atienza, don’t be a climate criminal." The activists are demanding that the environment secretary reject plans to construct the Iloilo City coal-burning power plant, which they say would pollute the air and worsen global warming.
Security guard attempts to remove a pile of charcoal dumped by Greenpeace in front of the Philippines Environment Ministry. (Photo by Luis Liwanag courtesy Greenpeace)
Iloilo is the capital city of the province of Iloilo in the Philippines. Located 280 miles from Manila, it is the regional center and the main economic hub of the Western Visayas region.
Instead of actual coal, Greenpeace used charcoal for their demonstration, which they say is safer than the coal used in power plants.
When burned, coal releases toxic gases such as mercury that have health impacts on downwind communities as well as carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.
"It is a crime against humanity to abet climate change, a crime that Secretary Atienza can stop by denying the issuance on an Environmental Compliance Certificate to the Iloilo Coal plant," said Jasper Inventor, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner.
Atienza, a former mayor of Manila, welcomed to the DENR the Greenpeace delegation led by Inventor. Atienza said that, like Greenpeace, he is committed to fighting the adverse impacts of climate change and other threats to the environment.
"I am with you with regards to our environmental concerns, but we also have to consider the other interests of the nation. If the coal plant is going to be providing energy, and if there are demands for it by the national economy and by the people, I cannot take a position very similar to yours. But I assure you that we both have the same goal of keeping our environment clean and safe," Atienza told Greenpeace.
"If Mr. Atienza is, as he claims, serious about working toward solutions to the climate problem, then he should take the lead in blocking the construction and expansion of the Iloilo plant and any other similar coal project in the country," Inventor said.
Greenpeace reminded Secretary Atienza about his own statements at the UN climate change meeting in Bali last December, where he called on world governments to act urgently and decisively to reverse climate change.
Atienza told delegates to the Bali conference that climate change will condemn the Philippines to poverty, and, worldwide, will displace some 340 million people while depriving 1.8 billion people of drinking water.
"We have brought this charcoal to him today to remind him of his words, if he eats them, then he can eat coal as well," said Inventor during the demonstration.
"And it is under his stewardship that the DENR is due to decide on the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate for the Iloilo coal plant whose construction plans have been met with massive resistance from civil society, church, and community groups in the city," Inventor said.
Greenpeace leader Jasper Inventor, left, talks with Philippines Environment Secretary Lito Atienza at the DENR office. April 17, 2008 (Photo courtesy DENR)
Atienza agreed on the viability of turning to other sources of energy like wind and solar power and biodiesel, all of which he said the DENR has been pushing for full-blown application in the country.
"Greenpeace can help the DENR by pointing out the negative aspects of using coal," he said. "We cannot afford to be railroaded into using coal as a source of energy when it may pose a threat to our communities.’’
Coal-fired power plants now account for 36 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector, and there are still at least eight coal-fired plants lined up for construction or expansion in the Philippines, including the 165 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Iloilo.
"Iloilo does not need this coal plant," said Melvin Purzuelo of Responsible Ilonggos for Sustainable Energy, RISE. "At present, there is an oversupply of 85MW in Panay Island and Guimaras."
"Beginning October 2008, there will be an additional oversupply when the existing submarine cable linking Panay Island to the Negros geothermal grid starts providing an additional 30 megawatts of electricity," said Purzuelo.
"On top of that, when the submarine cable is upgraded also later this year, Iloilo will receive an additional 100 megawatts, bringing the total electricity oversupply to 215 megawatts,"
Greenpeace and RISE maintain that needed power additions can be supplied by a range of renewable energy alternatives from small hydro, biomass and wind within Panay, and the expansion of geothermal power plants within the Visayas grid, eliminating the need for coal.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.