Church-based groups have criticized the Duterte administration for its indifference to the call for the protection of the environment against climate change even as growing opposition doubled against the proposed construction of a 150-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Davao City and the building of another coal power plant in San Carlos City in Negros Occidental.
According to sources, both power plants are being targeted to be constructed through a partnership with Chinese firms in another show of partiality towards China by President Rodrigo Duterte. China has moved up its investments in its involvement in infrastructure projects under the Build Build Build program of the administration, which includes the building of road networks and bridges and even in mass transportation and communication.
In a statement, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), which has 92-member schools on Negros Island, and Sister Concepcion Gasang of the Missionaries of the Assumption said that both plans are “dispensable and unnecessary.”
Gasang branded fossil fuel as a “monster that will destroy” the country. “(It is a) very damaging mineral when burnt. I don’t understand why anyone would want to implement such a thing,” the nun told the Union of Catholic Asian (UCA) News in Davao.
“We affirm our strong commitment to pursue the values of ecozoic living and learning. We say no to coal because it is another monster that will destroy our country,” she added.
On the other hand, CEAP said that the building of a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in San Carlos City would only harm the environment.
The group said the government should instead resort to clean and renewable sources of energy.
They also urged officials “to open channels of dialogue” with their constituents before allowing companies to build and eventually operate a coal-fired power plant.
Catholic bishops in the region earlier appealed to local authorities to reject the plant, saying it would pose a threat to the environment and to people’s health.
San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza called on Negros Occidental governor Bong Lacson to junk the proposal. Environmental groups also oppose the plan and accuse city authorities of going back on previous initiatives aimed at protecting citizens’ health and the environment.
Jean Lindo, convenor from the Network Opposed to Coal-Davao, says local officials should drop the plans for the power plant to be built by Aboitiz Power Corporation.
“We are known for our ‘No Smoking’ ordinance that benefited many of our residents, so why push for coal which is more deadly than tobacco?” Lindo asked.
Local officials have expressed support for the plant because of the increasing demand for power from the industry. Mindanao Business Council president Vicente Lao said Mindanao manufacturers and processing plants want more power to keep up with production. Anti-coal activists, however, say the government can always choose renewable energy to meet increased demand.
Francis Morales, another convenor from the anti-coal group, advised that “government officials and the people should move forward to discussing pro-poor and pro-people alternatives to coal. Anti-coal activists in the city are compiling scientific evidence to prove that coal is a threat to the environment and to the health of people.
With Negros Occidental being labeled as the ‘Renewable Energy Capital of the Philippines’, the Department of Energy (DoE) noted that with its renewable energy sources, the province is poised to become an entirely ‘green’ region by 2030. There are nine solar power plants, eight biomass plants, and 10 hydropower plants in the Negros region with a combined capacity of 579.43 MW.