Philippine's leg of Quit Coal tour wraps up

Feature story - June 20, 2008
“We believe there is no place for coal in a world beset by climate change and certainly there is no place for coal in Albay”That was the statement of Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, setting the tone for our one month Quit Coal tour of the Philippines. Since the Rainbow Warrior arrived in the country we’ve taken our Quit Coal message to the places it needed to be heard, and generated real progress on the ground and in the corridors of power.

Volunteers light candles in front of Jaro Cathedral - sending a message supporting Iloilo people's demand to the Philippine government for a cleaner, safer, future powered by renewable energy.

At Pagbilao, we went into action to blockade shipments of coal. The peaceful actions of our local activists and the crew of the Rainbow Warrior helped secure commitment from leading politicians to bring the Renewables Energy Bill to the floor of the Philippine Senate. The bill has already been passed by the Philippine Congress, but had been ignored by the Senate. Now we've secured the support of influential senators, including the chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources who said:

"I am one with Greenpeace in aiming for a coal-free Philippines. The threat of climate change demands a shift towards a sustainable, clean and low carbon future."

In Taguig City, we painted the Quit Coal message onto the driveway of the Department of Energy. Head of that department is Secretary Reyes, who as chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change should have known better than to sanction the construction or expansion of nine coal fired power stations in a country with huge renewable energy potential.

In Iloilo City, we constructed a climate camp to show our support for the residents of Iloilo City who are fighting to avoid the construction of a new coal fired power plant. At events organised with the Catholic Church and local civil society group RISE (Responsible Illongos for Sustainable Energy) we brought home the message that the Philippines is one of the countries most at risk from global warming, and that burning coal is the single biggest source of CO2 emissions and a major cause of climate change.

Later we moved our camp to the site of the proposed coal fired power station to bring our message to the local communities who will be affected by the new power plant. Tensions ran high when workers from Panay Power Corporation acting under orders from their management tried to dismantle the camp and cut off the activists from the outside world.  Our response was to take our protest to Metrobank, one of the largest banks in the Philippines and the owners of Panay Power Corporation. This is just the beginning of a grassroots campaign to put pressure on the financiers behind the coal plant.

The tour concluded with visits to Antique and Boracay. In Antique local governor Salvacion Z Perez declared her province coal free saying:

"The earth has provided us with renewable energy. It is time to harness this energy to generate electricity, and it is our aim to drastically [reduce] and ultimately stop the use of fossil fuels especially coal as source of energy."

In Boracay, we launched our "Save the climate, Save Boracay" project, part of an initiative to enlist top island destinations in South East Asia to reduce their carbon footprints. The people of Boracay face inundation from rising sea levels, but are determined to set an example to the world with their use of renewable energy and efficient energy technologies.

The Rainbow Warrior carries the Quit Coal message on to Thailand now, but work in the Philippines continues through our South East Asia office and allies in civil society.

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