Caravan against coal energy reaches Manila; requests dialogue with PNoy
Various coal-affected communities sail to Malacanang to demand cancellation of all coal projects
300 residents of coal-affected communities from Luzon and Visayas staged protests in government offices and in Malacanang as they ended their five-day caravan on November 27 urging the government to stop all coal projects in the country.
The communities who joined the People and Environment Against Coal-based Energy (PEACE) Caravan took off on November 23 from Sumirara Island in Caluya, Antique and made several stops at various coal hotspots in Luzon such as Occidental Mindoro, Batangas, and Laguna. They were joined by other activists from Bataan and Zambales who separately began their caravan from different coal sites in these provinces.
Led by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), the protest caravan organized forums and dialogues with various local government offices in cities and municipalities en route to raise awareness of the impact of coal to their communities. Among its stops were the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Energy (DOE) offices.
The protest caravan comprised of farmers, fisher folk, local leaders, and environmental advocates from communities affected by coal projects as well as members of the anti-mining groups Archdiocesan Ministry on Environment (AMEN), Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN), No to Coal Quezon Coalition, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP).
The protesters were also joined by members of the AlyansaTigil Mina (ATM), Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Mining Workers for Environment Association (MWEA) and Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI).
Cancel all coal projects
“The residents affected by coal projects want to highlight the impact of coal not only to the people but also to the environment and natural resources,” said Gerry Arances, national coordinator of PMCJ. “They want the government to stop all coal projects in the country, either existing or those in the pipeline.”
Arances added that the government should issue a moratorium as well as conduct investigations, assessments, and evaluations to eventually rescind all permits on coal projects.
At present, there are 19 existing coal-fired power plants operating across the country. The administration of President Bengino S. Aquino III has allowed for another 20 more to be operational by 2020. More coal-fired power plants, hence, entailed the increase of coal mining projects to 118 by 2012.
“We extend this call for energy transformation to the governments of the world who will talk in the climate talks in Paris,” said Arances. “Responding to climate change is impossible without system change in energy and in our paradigm of development and the economy.”
“We urge the government, especially the president, to immediately act on our concerns on the persisting environmental destruction caused by mining operations,” demanded Sanlakas president Leody de Guzman.
“Large swaths of marine ecosystems have already been destroyed around islands in Luzon and many people have suffered illness due to pollution from coal mining activities,” de Guzman explained.
The real cry of the people
To end the country’s dependence on coal, PMCJ lead Convenor Lidy Nacpil said that it is imperative for the government to invest in clean and sustainable energy projects. “While the cheap cost of coal is always emphasized by the President, coal projects have already shown serious and ongoing health and environmental problems that the government needs to address,” Nacpil explained.
“Governments of other countries have already moved away from coal, as one of the top 5 most vulnerable countries, we should take a stand against this costly and deadly resource which worsens the climate crisis,” Nacpil, who also serves as the Coordinator for the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) explained.
The government has so far approved a total of 682 renewable energy projects with a potential generating capacity of 13,574.68 MW. Meanwhile, 242 more contracts are still pending for approval. “As the leader of one of the most vulnerable countries and a delegate in the coming climate talks in Paris, Aquino’s position must reflect the real cry of the people most affected by this coal-dependence.”
“We should see more significant effort on the part of our government to reduce carbon emissions and take the path to sustainable and clean energy,” said Edward Hagedorn, former Mayor of Puerto Princesa, where an upcoming coal project threatens what was hailed as among the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
“But also, we must do it for the people whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and destroyed by coal,” Hagedorn said. “The people who are protesting are those who rely on tourism, fisheries and agriculture to survive, we cannot allow dirty energy to condemn them to poverty.”
The PEACE Caravan will next head to the March for Climate Justice the next day, November 28, where they will be joined by a large crowd of support from various sectors to register the people’s demands in the Paris Climate Talks.
Participating organizations: PMCJ, CBCP-NASSA, Bulig Visayas, Power for People (P4P), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), SAPOFFA, ALAMIN, AMEN, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Arcdiocesan Ministry on Environment (AMEN), No to Coal Quezon (NTCQ), Nuclear Free Bataan Movement (NFBM) and Defend Zambales.
Supported by: Bantay Kalikasan, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Greenpeace, Bantay Kita
November 27, 2015
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