RESIST COAL! RE-Energize All!
Energy and power issues have long been a heated subject in the country, as well as globally. At present, glaringly in Mindanao, as the island is experiencing rotation brown-outs from almost all its provinces and municipalities, the need for sustainable power supply has again been the order of the day. The government through the Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing to set up new power plants to meet the existing ‘deficit’ in power supply, as well as the forecasted growing demand for energy and power. Several proposals in solving the shortage of supply and forecasted increase of demand is already being proposed, and a bulk of these proposals is geared towards more dependence on coal power plants. As seen in the graphs, the country’s energy needs is dependent on coal and other fossil fuels.
Historically, the country’s energy and power supply has long been dependent on coal, in this case imported coal. According to the Department of Energy (DOE) the “country is largely a coal consuming country with coal having the highest contribution to power generation.” In 2009, 75.4% of these coal requirements are imported from other countries, with a major chunk from Indonesia at 74%. In 2011, the total imported coal was at 10.965 million metric tons.
Since 2008, it has been a major objective of the Philippine government to address the forecasted growing energy demand of the country with more indigenous energy resources – mainly coal, oil and gas, and reduce the country’s reliance to imported coal and oil.
PEP: Clear and Present Danger
Since the adoption of the Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) 2008-2030, there has been a significant increase in the number of coal plants in the pipeline and in the awarding of coal mining permits.
A key strategy of the current government, PEP targets the country’s energy self-sufficiency or ‘energy security’ by 2030. It continues to put a premium on fossil fuel use, stating that oil, gas and coal will remain “indispensable in meeting the country’s energy demand”.
The Philippines has rich potential for renewable energy sources estimated at more than 200,000 MW, even without tapping solar power. However, less than one percent of the total energy mix is currently being sourced from renewables.
Twenty-nine (29) coal boilers or 17 new coal plants with a total equivalent output of 4, 584 MW, seven (7) of which are committed while twenty-two (22) under indicative category, have been approved thus far. Targeted provinces include Batangas, Bataan, Davao City, Davao Del Sur, General Santos, Saranggani, Misamis Oriental, Subic-Olongapo, Iloilo, Zambales and Zamboanga. Proposals for another twenty-one (21) more coal plant complexes for another 5,435 MW are also being pushed by coal corporations, for construction in Palawan, Cebu, Negros, Isabela, Zamboanga Sibugay and Davao region, to name a few. Energy firms such as DMCI have their sights also on Romblon and Mindoro for another wave of coal plant construction.
The approved plants, once constructed, will add 4,584 MW more of energy, to the 5,153.6 MW being supplied by twenty seven (27) existing coal boilers or 15 coal plants in Pangasinan, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Quezon, Batangas, Cebu, Iloilo, and Misamis Oriental, close to 100 percent increase of energy sourced from coal.
To fuel these coal plants, along the framework that PEP has laid out, the government is aggressively pushing for more coal mining activities across the country. From 2007 to August 2013, the total Coal Operating Contracts (COCs) awarded by the National Government almost doubled, from 39 COCs to 71 COCs.
Concerns and Issues
Contrary to the claim of government and coal mining firms that the country and communities benefit from the revenue and sharing schemes under coal mining projects, it favors more the coal corporations. Under laws on coal mining in the country – Presidential Decrees 972 and 1174 – the coal contractor is guaranteed reimbursements of up to 90 percent of its operational costs from the gross output of the coal mine, and government’s total share amounts to a mere three percent of the overall production output.
Coal mining permits are granted under a policy environment lax in enforcing environmental and social safeguards. PDs 972 and 1174 do not enforce environmental impact system requirements, consent and social acceptability principles and other standards. These contracts lock the country for a whole generation and becoming dependent on coal-based energy sources for two to five (2-5) decades. This direction further undermines the countries commitment to shift to renewable energy sources, as one of its contribution in solving the climate crisis.
Another major issue is for whose interest does this push for more coal plants and coal mining projects serve? Contrary to claim of the government that the aggressive promotion of more coal plants and coal mining aim to respond to growing energy demand in the country, demand is largely fuelled not by the needs of people and communities but big business and their industries. In the case of Socsargen, Zamboanga Peninsula, CARAGA and Davao region, the push comes from large, energy-intensive industries led, among others, by the metallic mining industry and large plantations. In Central Luzon and Cebu, it is fuelled by the expansion of export processing zones.
At present, access to affordable and adequate energy remains beyond the reach of many Filipinos. An estimated 2.7 million Filipinos do not have access to electricity. Even with the government’s strategic plan in place, these coal projects and the whole energy plan will still leave 10 percent of the country’s total households without access to power and energy needs by 2017 (according to PEP). Without access to much needed energy, the enjoyment of a host of basic human rights such as the right to education, health and work are also compromised. Even those with access, there is also the issue of adequacy and capacity to avail
With the Electricity Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which privatized the whole power industry, in place, the up-scaling of more coal projects will also not redound to more affordable power rates for consumers.
This situation will aggravate the existing documented negative impacts that current coal projects in the country have produced over the years, as more coal projects will become operationalize in the next couple of years.
This track will also lock-in majority of the country’s energy supply on coal for at least the next two decades. As presented by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) recently, by 2020 the Mindanao dependence on coal for power generation will increase to 56% from 31% (2013), while hydro power drops from 52% (present) to 24% by 2020. The situation will be disadvantageous to the country as the trajectory of the global price of coal is rising. Countries like Australia have been penalizing coal combustion like carbon tax, while other countries in Europe implements stricter rules and regulations on coal plants.
Numerous studies have shown that coal is the dirtiest and most harmful source of energy:
- A 100MW coal plant emits an estimated 25 pounds of mercury a year. Only 0.002 pounds of accumulated mercury is needed to contaminate a 10-hectare lake to the point where fish caught are deemed unfit for human consumption.
- Ash samples tested from coal plants in Toledo, Cebu, Sual Pangasinan, Masinloc, Zambales and Calaca, Batangas, and in Mauban, Quezon revealed presence of heavy metals – mercury (deadly neurotoxin) and arsenic (known carcinogen). As well as the hazardous substances lead and chromium.
- A typical coal plant generates 500 tons of small airborne particles that causes chronic bronchitis, aggravates asthma; 720 tons of carbon monoxide which causes headaches and additional stress on people with heart disease. It can also produce as high as 225 pounds of arsenic, a major cause of cancer, and 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium and other toxic heavy metals every year.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency have even expounded in one of its study that coal ash disposal have a 900 times higher risk of cancer compared to other sources.
Not only is it the dirtiest and most harmful, it is also the main source of acid rain and global warming. It is already a universal fact that coal combustion produces the most nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, main causes of acid rain, and carbon dioxide. A typical coal plant, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emits 2,249 pounds of carbon dioxide per MWh, double that of carbon dioxide emitted by gas-fired plants, and 600 pounds more compared to oil-based plants – the main culprit of global warming and climate change. The total global CO2 contribution of the international coal industry is pegged at 60%.
In additional, coal extraction from the ground also produces negative impacts and hazards. From the destruction of watersheds and forests, to contamination due to coal ash, methane, and unearthing of other metallic minerals that will pollute rivers, coasts, and other sources of water—all these and a lot more, have been well established in many cases of coal mine sites across the globe. This is what is happening in the case of Semirara mines.
While the country’s contribution of green house gas emissions (GHG) to the total global GHG emission is very small compared to developed countries, pegged at approximately 0.31% of the Global GHG or an average of 139 MtCO2 from 1990-2010 , this does not mean that coal combustion and extraction does not contribute to climate change impacts in the country.
Aside from the potential rise in the country’s GHG contribution with the aggressive promotion of more coal plants and coal extraction, an additional 10.3 Million pounds of CO2 from the approved twenty-nine new coal plants per MWh and another 12.2 million pounds of CO2 from the twenty-one proposed coal plants per MWh, these coal projects will have heavier impacts in fuelling climate disasters in the country and the further weakening of the adaptive capacities of our communities.
Coal projects impacts negatively on the same areas that climate change also negatively affects our country. As stipulated in the government’s national climate change plan – peoples’ health, ecosystems and biodiversity, water and food security, and livelihoods are at the forefront of climate change impacts.
A growing resistance of communities and anti-coal advocates is surging across the country. Almost all proposed coal plants have been meeting increasingly stiff opposition from communities, environmental activists, indigenous peoples and many other sectors from Bataan, Olongapo-Subic and Zambales, to Palawan, Cebu and provinces across Mindanao. Protest by indigenous communities continues to mount in coal mining areas such as Semirara and Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. In almost all coal hotspots, people are raising issues of social acceptability, consent and demanding accountability.
PMCJ’s Stand on Coal
In the last 5 years, the Philippine government:
Approved the building of 17 new coal plants in addition to 15 existing coal plants, and 20 more are proposed.
Approved 21 new coal mining permits bringing the total number of existing coal mining permits to 60 coal mining existing permits
- Coal is NOT cheap. It comes with a horrifyingly huge cost to people and the environment.
The excessive burning of coal is a major contributor to the historical accumula¬tion of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere and it is the biggest source of current global green house gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 45% or 14.2 gigatonnes of the total 31.6 gigatonnes of global car¬bon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel combustion in 2011 came from burning of coal. The excessive concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from historical as well as current emissions is causing global warming and climate change.
Coal mining and combustion processes have serious toxic effects on the health of people and the environment. These in turn severely weaken resilience and under¬mine the capacity of people and communities to deal with the impacts of climate change.
Coal mining destroys forests, mountains and watersheds — which has many seri¬ous consequences including the exacerbation of climate disasters.
- There is NO such thing as “Clean Coal.” Coal kills.
“Clean coal” technology – or the use of circulating fluidized bed combustion system, emit four (4) times more coal ashes compared to ordinary coal plants. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EIA) of the US government, the risk of getting cancer is 900 times higher from coal ash exposure compared cigarette smoking.
- This is NOT energy for all
The Philippine Energy Plan will power a “development” strategy that keeps our economy oriented towards global market demands instead of our peoples’ needs and keeps our doors open to plunderers of our natural resources. Meantime, ma¬jority of our people can barely afford the current electricity rates or are not even connected.
The new coal power plants to be built in SOCSARGEN region in Mindanao — the 200 megawatt plant of Conal Holdings and the proposed 400 megawatts plant of the Alcantara Group — are mainly intended to fulfil the 900 megawatts required by the Xtrata/Glencore mining project in Tampakan, South Cotabato to be fully operational.
- This is a BETRAYAL of the Philippine government’s commitment to shift to renewable energy systems and contribute to the global effort to address the climate crisis.
The Philippine government’s “coal push” will lock-in the country to dirty and harmful energy and extend Philippine dependence on coal for at least the next 2 decades.
PMCJ, therefore call on the government to immediately implement a moratorium on all new coal plants and coal mining, pending a national review of energy options with civil society, scientific community and affected communities.