Aquino fails anti-coal advocates
Some 300 residents from coal-affected communities marched to Mendiola from its five-day long protest caravan, dismayed after President Benigno S. Aquino III and his administration did not listen to their pleas and blatantly supported coal.
Gerry Arances, national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), said that “the government remained deaf, mute, and blind to the impacts of coal to the communities.”
Arances said “the government was insensitive to the issues and problems that the people from different communities joining the protest caravan on coal are facing and would like to discuss with the government.” He said “the Aquino administration continued to deny a dialogue with the residents of the coal-affected communities and has remained steadfast in its investments in coal projects.”
Members of the caravan, dubbed as the People and Environment Against Coal-based Energy (PEACE) Caravan,had requested Aquino and his cabinet, particularly Energy SecretaryJericho Carlos L. Petilla, for a dialogue on November 27. They denied the caravan’s request.
Members of the caravan were farmers, fisher folk, and community and church leaders from coal-affected communities in the coal hotspots across Luzon, including Semirara Island, Batangas, Occidental Mindoro, Laguna, Bataan, and Zambales.
Benjamin Magan, president of the Sabang-Poocan Farmers and Fishers Association (SAPOFFA) who joined the caravan, said “the dialogue was supposedly a venue to present our demands and propose solutions to address the issues and problems we are currently facing because of the coal projects.”
“People are getting sick and our environment is being destroyed because of the coal mining activities. We want cleaner air and cleaner water,” Magan said.
“We put the blame squarely on the government’s lack of inaction if climate disasters worsen and people suffer more from disasters and polluted water and air,” Magan added.
ABS-CBN Bantay Kalikasan’s Chairperson Gina Lopez also expressed her support to the cancellation of all coal projects in the country.
Lopez said that “coal has never been and will never be clean or cheap.” She said “the cost of coal on the environment and people’s health and livelihoods has never been taken into account when the government speaks of coal as a cheap energy option.”
Coal emits more greenhouse gas than any other fossil fuel. About 43 percent of the country’s energy resources are coming from coal and this is expected to increase as the Aquino administration issued permits to build 20 more coal-fired power plants. Moreover, Aquino openly supported coal in his interview with BBC.
“The Aquino government is a disappointment as it remains to see coal as relatively cheap energy option,” lamented Sanlakas secretary-general Aaron Pedrosa.
“More coal-fired power plants are being built under this administration. The worst part of this is that these coal projects are located within the peripheries of communities that are traditionally home to millions of Filipinos and are supported by rich ecosystems and biodiversity,” Pedrosa said.
“As more countries continue to do away with coal, the government’s persistent effort to invest in coal will undermine efforts of other governments and climate justice advocates to limit the rise in temperatures and, thereby, reduce the adverse effects of climate change,” he added.
The caravan joined the March for Climate Justice Saturday in the fight for a strong and fair global climate agreement in the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris. COP21 will be attended by 25,000 official delegates from government, including Aquino, intergovernmental organizations, United Nation agencies, and civil society who are expected to hammer out a new legally binding agreement on climate change from November 30 to December 11.
The caravan marched alongside alongside renewable energy advocates from Power for People Network (P4P) and religious organizations from the Ecological Justice Interfaith Movement (ECOJIM).
“The Aquino government should urgently address the climate crisis, deliver justice, address the impacts of climate change, and guarantee the rights of all people, especially the most vulnerable communities,” said PMCJ lead convenor Lidy Nacpil.
“The governmentcan only do this by avoiding dirty and harmful energy, such as coal, and start shifting to renewable and cleaner energy,” Nacpil added.