Warning shot fired against peaceful protesters in Philippines

Feature story - 21 July, 2002
While peaceful protesters highlighted a vision of clean, green energy for the Philippines a security guard fired a warning shot in the air over the heads of activists. The protest was against the biggest coal-fired power station in the Philippines.

Security from the Phillipine's biggest coal fired power station, Sual, fire a warning shot to activists.

Five activists were arrested during the action at Sual power plant, in the province of Pangasinan. The plant, which was built with funding from the UK, France and the US, and runs on coal from China, Indonesia and Australia was listed as one of the five most problematic power stations in the country last week by the Philippine Government.

Five activists from onboard our ship MV Arctic Sunrise climbed the cranes at the Sual dock where a shipment of coal was being unloaded and hung a banner reading "Clean Energy Now". A team of 30 activists, including teams in three inflatable boats bearing "Choose Positive Energy" flags, were supporting the climbers, ready to undertake further activities. The shot was fired as activists attempted to paint on the ship unloading coal. No one was hurt. The arrested activists, who have already been released without charges.

"Like developing countries around the world, the Philippines is hungry for clean, reliable power but coal-fired power stations like Sual are not the answer," said campaigner Athena Ballesteros. "Coal is one of the most greenhouse intensive fuels - it is dirty, expensive and damages our climate. That's why we want investment in renewable energy like solar, wind and modern biomass power for the Philippines."

"Foreign interests and foreign money are dictating the Philippines' energy policy," said Ballesteros. "People of the Philippines have been campaigning against coal-fired power stations like Sual for years. We don't want this dirty, conventional technology dumped on us from rich northern countries that are more interested in profits than our needs, or protecting our climate." Less than 1 percent of the Philippines' energy plan includes solar wind or modern biomass power.

Sual is typical of the carbon-based power plants the Philippines has been developing in the past decade. It is owned by the US subsidiary Mirant, which is the largest foreign investor in the Philippines, and was built by Alstom, a UK and French owned corporation. It runs on coal imported from China, Indonesia and Australia.

"There hasn't been a new coal-fired power station built in the UK since 1972," said Anita Goldsmith from the UK, on site at the action. "If coal is not good enough at home, then why is Tony Blair and the UK Government dumping this dirty, technology on developing nations like the Philippines? It's hypocritical and scandalous of the UK to push coal in Asia. While the UK promises to cut greenhouse emissions at home, it is exporting more than half that amount overseas."