SEMIRARA – MALACANANG PEOPLES CARAVAN: People and Environment Against Coal-based Energy
Caravan – Glenn Ymata, 09273035274
Manila – Kevin Yu, 09175213356
Philippines – Anti-coal and climate justice groups as well as coal-affected communities begin Tuesday their five-day caravan from Semirara Island to Malacanang demanding President Benigno S. Aquino III to stop the expansion of coal projects under his administration.
Under Aquino’s term, a total of 59 coal-fired power plants has been approved that will be operational by 2020, in addition to the 19 existing ones. A total of 188 coal mining permits has also been issued.
According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions that have greatly impacted on climate.
“The peace caravan will symbolize the growing clamor against dirty and harmful energy such as coal. This caravan proves to government that the people are resisting the coal projects. They are also willing to do what it takes to phase out the existing coal projects that they consider as among the biggest threats in their communities,” said ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Chairperson Gina Lopez.
Residents from the coal-affected communities and leaders from Semirara Island are participating in the caravan, which aims to highlight the different forms of impact of coal projects on the affected communities’ livelihoods as well as the environment and climate in general. The caravan also aims to elevate the issue at the national level.
From November 23 to 27, the caravan will visit various communities and government offices from Semirara Island to Manila. Various people’s energy forums will also be conducted in Bulalacao and Victoria in Mindoro, Sto. Tomas in Batangas, and Binan in Laguna. The different mass actions to be conducted in parallel with the caravan will lead to a protest in front of the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Natural Resources (DENR) offices. The caravan will end at Malacanang to have a dialogue with Aquino.
“The people are now demanding to stop coal in all forms in the country,” said Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).
Arances added that “the people urge the Aquino administration to impose and enforce immediate actions that will prevent further damage of coal projects to both the people and environment.”
Coal mining sites in Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique produce more than 90 percent of domestic coal resources. Coal mining has adversely affected the island’s seaweed industry, which produce PhP400 million annually. Three kilometers of coral reefs and 100 hectares of mangrove have been destroyed by the coal mining activities.
“Ang buong buhay namin ay naapektuhan ng coal. Mula sa aming hanap buhay hanggang sa aming kalusugan. Wala dinulot ang coal kungdi kapahamakan sa aming komunidad sa pamamagitan ng pagmimina sa aming isla sa Semirara” (Our whole lives were affected by coal. Our livelihood and health are severely affected. Coal has nothing to offer to us and will only ruin our community by mining in our community), lamented Sabang-Poocan Farmers and Fishers Association (SAPOFFA) president Benjamin Magan.
“We urge the government to unconditionally phase out coal,” said Lidy Nacpil, convenor of PMCJ and regional coordinator of Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).
Nacpil added that “a moratorium on all planned coal-fired power plants is the first step while simultaneously building alternatives by promoting renewable energy.”
“We need to make an immediate transformation of our energy system that is not harmful and extractive in nature and it should empower communities and individuals by pushing for off grid renewable energy systems,” she said.
As of September 2015, a total of 682 renewable energy projects have been approved with a potential generating capacity of 13,574.68 MW. Meanwhile, 242 more contracts are still pending for approval.
“More public investments on renewable energy will allow us to pursue sustainable development that is for all, with less emissions and less harmful impacts to the health and livelihood of our communities,” said Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary General of Sanlakas.
Pedrosa said that funding can be sourced from the Renewable Energy Trust Fund or the Malampaya fund reserved for energy resource development among others.
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