(This is the second part of "David meets Goliath in Mindanao" blog series)
Existing and proposed coal plants in the Philippines
We were greeted by two of the elderly folks from the community - Lolo, Lola and her grand children approach us with a warm smile. After hearing what our intention was by going to their community, their smile wanes. Lola opens up and tells us how small and powerless they are next to Aboitiz, the company constructing the 300 MW coal-fired power plant. "If we interfere, we might end up dead." These were the words that stung me the most. The fear and trepidation from the coal proponents was enough to tug at anyone's heart strings. I then felt the moral obligation to share the ordeal of the local folks to those who can do something to help.
Lolo breaks the silence and confides that one of the cemeteries in the area is gone, replaced by the construction of the coal-fired power plant, which has been cordoned off from the public. The other cemetery nearby will be claimed as well, as the construction expands to cover the 80-hectare facility.
These cemeteries, they say, are sacred burial grounds for the Muslims. When asked if they are able to visit their departed loved ones, with a forlorn look, they tell us that they need to seek permission to enter the cemetery which has already been secured. Lolo then tells us that Buka Puasa (an evening meal where Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan) will commence in 15 days, and that traditionally, they go to the cemetery to pay their respects and to clean the burial ground. This year, however, the tradition will have to be broken as they will no longer be able to visit their departed loved ones, as the cemeteries are converted to a coal-fired power plant.
The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness surge through me like a lightning bolt - how can this be allowed to happen?
It's depressing enough that the community currently residing there are going to be displaced, along with it, their social and economic ties to the land. But to strip them away of their culture and tradition, paying no respect to the sacredness of the burial ground is beyond belief.
Help us win the fight for Lolo, Lola and the local folks in the community that will be affected by the construction of the coal-fired power plant. Let us not allow the Goliaths - whose agenda is to power the Philippines with dirty fossil fuels - to pollute our future. Join us in our call to the Government to phase out coal and lead the Philippines into the twenty first century powered by Renewable Energy.
Anna Abad is Climate and Energy campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines.