REclaim power! Coal and renewable energy confab opens

Davao City – Days after the alarming pronouncement on energy of President Benigno Simeon “PNoy” Aquino III during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), 100 leaders and representatives coming from various parts of the country will come together to share experiences on the impacts of coal projects and exchange ideas to collectively forge a national platform to pursue the campaign for genuine energy transformation.

Reclaim Power! National Peoples Conference on Coal and Renewable Energy hosted by Ateneo de Davao Universityaims to address critical local and national issues and alternatives on energy which have been glossed over in the President’s SONA last week.

Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) explains, “the conference will pave the way towards accessible, affordable, sustainable renewable energy systems for peoples and communities while exposing the realities of coal energy, an energy source that the PNoy Government is promoting to abate the current energy crisis.”At present, an estimate of 2.7-million households do not have access to energy.

In his speech, PNoy mentioned that there is an existing power crisis and argued that hydropower will not provide for enough supply when El Nino occurs. This became his premise to argue for preparation to avert a projected shortfall in energy supply.

“This is where coal comes in. The proliferation of dirty coal power-plants all over the country is the government’s solution to the energy crisis oblivious to the dangers it may cause – a solution which will endanger the lives of millions of Filipinos because of the proven impacts of coal. The continued promotion of coal only reveals the Government’s reluctance and skepticism towards renewable energy as an energy source that is highly abundant in our country,” Arances said.

Under the Aquino administration, permits granted to coal mining projects have doubled, from 39 coal operating contracts (COCs) in 2007 to 71 COCs in 2013.The number of approved coal plants has increased in the same period. In addition to 17coal plants (with 28 boilers) with a total of 5506.2 MW capacity are currently operational across the country, 25more coal plants (with 45 boilers) of up to 9,054 MW capacity have been approved as ofmid-2014 (committed and indicative) and railroaded for final construction by 2020. This is up from 17 coal plants (with 29 boilers) with 4,584 MW approved in less than a year ago. This is in addition to another 12 more coal plants with 2,480 MW capacity proposed in the same year.

Stories on the impact of coal is well documented in the Philippines. In Naga, Cebu, a “Clean Coal” plant inaugurated by the President himself in 2011, has been operational for 3 years and the negative impacts to the host community have compounded throughout the years.

Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary-General of SANLAKAS and concurrently the head of PMCJ’s Energy Working Group documented the experience of communities in the site. He explained, “What they flaunted as a clean coal project was twice issued with a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) by the Province and the City of Naga due to the hazards it posed to the environment and the nearby communities. Despite the alarming morbidity and mortality rates in Naga, the continued operation of the coal plants threatens to put more lives, livelihood as well as the health of the environment at greater risk. By putting up more coal plants else where, the government is turning a blind eye to the realities on the ground and experiences of communities like Naga.”

Based on Department of Energy (DOE) data, new renewables (including solar and wind) constitute only 11.8% of all approved power plants,compared to coal’s 82.8% share. In Mindanao alone, the share of coal will rise to 56% by 2020 from its current share of 31%, with hydropower decreasing from 52% to 24% by 2020according to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA). In Mindanao, 12 coal plants are set to go online by 2020. Seven of these will rise in Davao Region.

“It is thus, no coincidence that the People’s Conference on Coal and RE is now being held in Davao. We do not want to tread on a coal-ridden trail while our renewable energy potential remains largely underinvested.“ Lucita Gonzales, Secretary General of Power Alternative Agenda in Mindanao (PALAG-Mindanao) said.

Palag Mindanao is one of the co-organizers of the national conference.

Despite the pressing issues on energy, the conference will also go beyond the current issues and lead towards building a peoples based energy platform that will empower consumers and individuals.

“We acknowledge that there is a need to fix the energy deficit in our country. The energy crisis is also a manifestation that there are fundamental problems in our energy systems. The peoples conference and gathering will attempt to address the needs of the people and listen to the stories and experiences felt on the ground, a democratic process that is severely lacking in our energy system.” Arances concluded. -30-

The conference is organized by PMCJ in cooperation with Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), CREATE-AdDU, Palag Mindanao, Gitib Inc./Our River Our Life, Ateneo Human Rights Center, and 1-CARE.The conference is supported by 11.11.11., Foundation for Sustainable Society Inc., European Climate Foundation, Korean Green Foundation, Bantay Kita and Natural Resource Governance Institute.

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) is a grassroots-based movement consisting of basic sectors, grassroots communities and other organizations. We are campaigning for national climate justice campaigns on on energy, adaptation/rehabilitation after Typhoon Yolanda and other issues on climate change.

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