Greenpeace and Iloilo residents expose illegal coal plant structure as “stupid”

Feature story - October 21, 2009
Greenpeace activists and Iloilo residents are urging the local government to pull the plug on a plan to operate a coal-fired power plant in this city. The group calls the illegal, premature back-filling of the proposed site, despite the obvious environmental impacts it will create and strong public opposition to the project, as “stupid,” especially since there are clean and safe energy technologies -- such as wind, geothermal and biomass -- that are readily available.

Greenpeace activists protest the illegal erection of a steel structure and back-filling on a proposed site for a coal-fired power plant in Iloilo. Research shows that there are abundant sources of clean, renewable energy in the area that remains untapped. Coal plants are the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change that manifest in extreme weather events like typhoons Frank, Ondoy and Pepeng.

The proponents of the plant have yet to obtain a building permit, but have already started on the foundations and have erected a multi-level steel structure for erecting the building. Activists entered the site today bearing banners and arrows pointing to the illegal structure with messages such as "Coal is Stupid." and "Quit Coal. Stop Climate Change."

Greenpeace is citing the increasing incidence of extreme weather events in the country resulting from climate change, such as recent tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng that consecutively hit Luzon earlier this month, and typhoon Frank that similarly devastated Iloilo with floods last year. Scientists point out that climate change is being caused by the increasing emission of greenhouse gases, to which the greatest contributor are coal-fired power plants.

"Operating this coal plant directly contributes to the global climate crisis and local pollution, as well as being a threat to the health of local residents" says Amalie Obusan, climate & energy campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "The people know what they want and they want clean, renewable energy. Coal should not be shoved down their throats just because of the vested interests of a few."

During the weekend, Greenpeace sponsored the Iloilo screening of the movie "Age of Stupid," starring Oscar-nominated Pete Postlewaithe as a man in the devastated world of 2055 looking at "archive" footage from our time to try and find out why humanity didn't save itself from climate change when it had the chance.

The screening of the "Age of Stupid" is timely and gives an opportunity and challenge for people to take stock of the impacts of climate change on our people.  It hopes to contextualize the tragedy wrought by typhoon Frank in Iloilo and the more recent Ondoy and Pepeng tragedies in Luzon.  The movie, more importantly, is a challenge to ensure that there is global commitment to mitigate and adapt to the adverse impacts of runaway climate change such  as extreme weather events.

Greenpeace research has shown that there is an abundance of renewable energy potential in the area which can go online as early as 2010.  Biomass potential is now at 38 megawatts (MW), possibly coming from three projects. Indications for a wind power project in Guimaras

is pegged at 54-MW, the excess of which can be sold to Panay (Guimaras only needs 8-MW). And then there is an 80-MW geothermal supply which can come in from Negros, which is ready to be tapped anytime. Micro-applications of solar energy in homes, communities and schools also exist.

Obusan points out that the rotating brown-outs experienced in Panay Island, particularly in Iloilo, should not be an excuse to go for fossil fuel-based technology to generate power, but an opportunity to aggressively pursue clean and safe renewable energy technology and implement energy efficiency initiatives.

"In light of the proposed coal-fired power plant project in Iloilo and the tragedies brought by typhoons Frank, Ondoy and Pepeng due to a changing climate, the question begs to be asked: 'Are we stupid?'" adds Obusan.

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