Semirara residents angered by PNoy’s “coal fetish” Coal-affected communities continue pilgrimage to Malacanang
President Benigno Aquino III’s statement endorsing coal as a “cheap source of energy” angered members of the Semirara community, currently staging a pilgrimage from Antique to the nation’s capital in order to express their disapproval of Aquino’s blatant support for coal projects.
The People and Environment Against Coal-based Energy (PEACE) Caravan, a 300-people strong PEACE Caravan consisting of coal-affected farmers, fisherfolk and community leaders which started last Tuesday, condemned the support Aquino expressed during an interview with BBC.
“Hindi namin maintindihan kung bakit ang tigas ng ulo ng Pangulo,” (We do not understand how the President can be so stubborn.) said Sabang-Poocan Farmers and Fishers Association (SAPOFFA) president Benjamin Magan, a community leader heading the Caravan to Manila.
“Ilang ulit na naming hinaing ang operasyon at expansion ng minahan sa isla namin pero mas padadamihin niya pa ang mga ganitong proyekto.”
(We have repeatedly rejected mining operations and expansion in our island, and yet he wants to add more to it.”
The internal pressure from the citizens is also reflected by the series of pronouncements by countries across the globe announcing that they will no longer fund or host coal projects. In spite of this, 59 coal-fired power plants and 42 coal mining permits have been approved by the Aquino administration in its five years.
“The President has been a consistent disappointment when it comes to the issue of shifting to cleaner and more sustainable renewable energy,” said Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) National Coordinator Gerry Arances. “The people he claims to be his bosses have already spoken out against coal. His real bosses in developed countries have also rejected it. His fetish for coal has got to stop.”
ABS-CBN Bantay Kalikasan’s Chairperson Gina Lopez also spoke out against dirty energy, saying: “Coal has never been and will never be clean or cheap. The burning and processing of coal kills water resources, threatens the livelihood and health of communities and
pollutes the air with cancerous particles and climate-change inducing greenhouse gases.”
The President, in his interview, refused to entertain the possibility of shifting to solar and wind energy because of “cloudiness” and the possibility of raising electricity costs.
“For such an educated President, Aquino seems to be so ignorant of science and the real situation of the people when he talks down on renewable energy resources,” said Arances. “This detached, unrealistic position only fuels the system which endangers the people and worsens to climate,” he added.
“Hindi kami mapapagod sa haba ng biyaheng ito,” (We will not tire no matter how long this caravan may seem) said Magan. “Mas pagod na ang mga mamamayan ng Semirara sa pagpapatuloy ng minahang unti-unti kaming pinapatay at ginugutom,” he concluded.