PNOC will kill communities with coal projects

Press release - January 17, 2014
Quezon City—Greenpeace today called on the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) to stop harming Filipino people with irresponsible coal power projects. The call came following this week’s announcement from PNOC-EC president Pedro Aquino that the company plans to pursue two mine-mouth coal plants, purportedly utilizing a method to make coal “environment-friendly.”

“PNOC’s proposed mine-mouth projects will be the death knell of Filipino communities who are already suffering from the onslaught of climate change,” said Beau Baconguis, Program Manager for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Coal is the worst choice for energy-generation—and coal mine-mouth plants are the worst sort of coal facilities. There is no conceivable technology that can make coal environment-friendly. If PNOC is aiming to kill people, we could say that they’re going to do it very efficiently.”

Coal may seem like the most practical fuel because of its abundance. But from mining, through combustion for electricity, through waste and coal ash disposal, coal has dire impacts on the environment and human health. It is a curse to communities living near coal mines and plants as it endangers their livelihoods and causes disease and death. Coal’s numerous toxic pollutants seep into the air, water and land. These disrupt ecosystems and endanger human health. Some cause cancer, others damage the nervous and immune systems, and some impede reproduction and development. The coal industry moreover is a major contributor to climate change, the greatest threat to our world today.

Integrated coal mining and power plant facilities (called mine-mouth facilities) are especially harmful because they expose helpless communities to coal’s complete harmful cycle—from mine waste and acid drainage in the mine, to air pollutants and particulates during combustion, and to toxic leachate that persist in coal ash repositories years after disposal.

There is no such thing as clean coal or environment-friendly coal. The environmental and health impacts remain in coal facilities despite efforts to put in more pollution control measures. With clean coal technology, hazardous chemicals such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) mercury and other toxic ash and emissions still need to be dealt with. The recent water contamination case in West Virginia, USA leaving 300,000 residents in nine counties without potable water for days is just one of the many catastrophes associated with coal use [1].

The mine-mouth project proposed in Isabela has been repeatedly rejected by the province’s communities. In July 2006, community folk rallied with Greenpeace outside the PNOC headquarters with a petition signed by 15,000 residents. The project was then shelved. However, in the past years, despite opposition from communities, it was revived.

Greenpeace maintains that the government should instead more aggressively develop Philippines’ vast potential for renewable energy (RE) generation. Currently there are proposals for RE projects all over the country including in the Visayas, post-Yolanda. More such projects are needed. In the global landscape, RE is gaining more and more ground as governments, communities and business realize that the benefits of RE far outweigh the perceived benefits of coal including clean coal.

“Coal kills people. Mine-mouth coal projects kill people faster,” said Baconguis. “Communities have already spoken about the unacceptability of such a project both for the impacts of mining and of coal-burning. It is foolish to resurrect mine-mouth projects now, especially with the overwhelming evidence of the negative impacts of coal.”

“In contrast, the Philippines can reach a target of 50% RE by 2020. We only need to take that leap and make it happen as a country. We don’t need backward and toxic technologies such as coal when we have a bright future with RE staring us in the eye,” she added.

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For more information:

Beau Baconguis, Program Manager, , 0917-8715257

Diah Abida, Media Assistant, , 0917-8686451

Note to editors:

[1] http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2014/01/10/what-is-the-chemical-that-just-contaminated-west-virginias-drinking-water/

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