Rainbow Warrior blocks coal shipment in Philippines (updated)

Feature story - 23 May, 2008
The Rainbow Warrior is blockading coal shipments at the Pagbilao coal-fired power plant to protest the plant's impending expansion.

A Greenpeace activist onboard the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior looks on as the vessel blocks coal shipments at the Pagbilao coal-fired power plant.

[ video  |  photos ]

Our action comes on the eve of the G8 Environment Ministers Meeting in Japan. The richest industrialised countries in the world are gathering in Kobe to discuss solutions to climate change from 24-26 May. Ending the use of coal needs to top the agenda.

One-hundred-fifty kilometers southwest of Manila, the Rainbow Warrior is anchored alongside the coal ship Medi Firenze, which is unloading a cargo of coal at the plant's dock. This prevents a bigger shipment of coal - from the 223-meter vessel Sam John Spirit standing by to unload - from approaching.

A giant banner reading "Quit coal" is strung between the Rainbow Warrior's masts to drive home the message that the Philippine government should stop building and expanding harmful coal-fired power plants.

Update - 25 May - We've ended our protest on a high note. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri sent a message of support to the Rainbow Warrior saying, "I will file a resolution in the Senate seeking a halt in the construction of new coal fired power plants in the country."

Read more at Rainbow Warrior ends peaceful protest at Pagbilao.

Philippines at risk 

The Philippines is among the countries most vulnerable to rising sea levels, more frequent cyclones and other devastating effects from climate change. The coal plant's planned expansion would mean an additional 5 million tons of climate-wrecking carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere every year - double the plant's current production.

But the expansion is not the only concern. The government is currently planning to build eight new coal-fired power stations.

"At a time when we need to be doing everything we can to reduce our emissions, we are importing more and more fossil fuel that we don't need and which will bring consequences we simply cannot afford. The banks and companies that fund our coal industry need to realise that what looks like investment to them is going to mean destruction for us," said Jasper Inventor, Climate Campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The Philippines have the capacity to produce 54 percent more electricity than they use. However problems with the electricity grid means the excess goes to waste rather than towards powering people's homes, villages and towns. The government needs to invest in resolving the problem of power transmission, rather than new coal fired power.

Governor calls for "coal free zone"

The government's plans are not only out of step with the global fight to tackle climate change. Governor of Albay province in Luzon, Joey Sarte Salceda, recently announced the province a coal free zone. "Albay is taking a bold step .... by declaring ... a 'No to mining and coal free zone'. 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," he said. "I call on other nations, particularly the developed nations, to reject coal." 

The energy sector produces two-thirds of the world's climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, with coal-fired power stations the greatest offenders.  The Philippines already has eight coal-fired power stations, which account for as much as 36 percent of the country's energy emissions.

"Clearly the national government is not serious about addressing climate change," said Jasper Inventor. "If the government wants to do right, the first thing on its list should be to quit coal and ensure an end to coal construction and expansion. The government must start phasing out of this dirty and dangerous power source while increasingly tapping clean, safe, renewable energy.  Renewable energy sources are abundant in the Philippines, the only thing we need more of is the political will to deploy them."


The Rainbow Warrior is in the Philippines to spearhead the Greenpeace "Quit Coal Tour" in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Our tour aims to promote solutions to stop climate change - an energy revolution away from the use of climate-damaging coal, and a massive shift to renewable energy.

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