Greenpeace calls attention to dangers posed by coal-ash dumpsites in Cebu

Peaceful activists fired upon with warning shots by government guards

Feature story - December 1, 2009
Greenpeace activists calling attention to hazards posed by coal-fired power plants found that hazmat suits may not be enough protection. Clad in protective suits against hazardous materials, the peaceful activists, seeking only to take pictures of the toxic by-product, were aimed at and met with a warning gunshot by security guards of the coal ash dumpsite in Barangay Tinaan in Naga, Cebu.

Six days before the Copenhanen Climate talks, Greenpeace activists calling attention to hazards posed by coal-fired power plants found that hazmat suits may not be enough protection. Clad in protective suits against hazardous materials, the peaceful activists, seeking only to take pictures of the toxic by-product, were aimed at and met with warning gunshots by security guards of the coal ash dumpsite in Barangay Tinaan in Naga, Cebu. Greenpeace is reiterating its call to save the climate by quitting coal.

 "The use of coal and the dumping of its toxic by-products on government property, especially since it is in a populated area, are public issues," said Amalie Obusan, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "The public has the right to know how their tax money is being used, especially when it poses a danger to personal and environmental health. We condemn the actions by guards toward a peaceful, non-violent activity. They're supposed to look out for public interest, not threaten it in so many ways."

With just six days to go before the most important climate negotiations take place in Copenhagen, Greenpeace activists in Cebu are calling attention to coal ash - a by-product from the burning of coal, which contains significant amounts of carcinogens and retains the heavy metal present in coal in far higher concentrations.

Results of tests conducted by Greenpeace in 2005 from ash samples taken from the Naga and from the Toledo coal plants in Cebu revealed the insidious presence of mercury, a deadly neurotoxin; arsenic, which is a known carcinogen; as well as hazardous substances lead and chromium.[1]

The response of the Cebu provincial government has been to downplay the dangers of coal ash, and even going so far as proposing its use as material for reclamation of government property in Brgy. Tinaan.

The burning of fossil fuels such as coal for power generation, account for nearly two-thirds of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which is largely responsible for global warming.[2]

Obusan further reiterates that "there's no such thing as 'clean' coal plants. Those that claim to be such may be controlling air pollution better, but it is not as though toxic residues no longer exist. It's just that they have become solid byproducts, such as fly ash, and dumped in ponds, pits or -in this case - an open lot owned by the provincial government despite the absence of proper regulation of coal ash from power plants by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). These byproducts continue to threaten the health of

individuals and of the climate."

Greenpeace is reiterating its call to save the climate by quitting coal. The organization is demanding mitigation actions for major developing countries in the spirit of a gradual widening, deepening and strengthening of the contributions from members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to achieve as much as 30% deviation from business as usual growth by 2020.[3]

"Developing countries like the Philippines must contribute their own share to the climate negotiations and must work towards decoupling CO2 emissions growth with economic development and leapfrog towards a low carbon sustainable development path," adds Obusan.  "It is time to lay coal to rest and embrace new and superior solutions such as wind, wave, solar and geothermal. These are clean, safe, reliable and more readily available than new coal plants."

Notes: [1] Greenpeace Southeast Asia. Bringing Calamities to Communities. 2005 - http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/seasia/en/press/reports/bringing_calamities_to_communities.pdf [2] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change. 2007 - http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/syr/fig2-1.jpg [3] Greenpeace International. Copenhagen Climate Summit: Greenpeace Demands. 2009 - http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/climate-demands.pdf

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