Manila gives gigantic welcome to Arctic Sunrise

Feature story - July 18, 2002
A proposal announced yesterday by the European Energy Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, to push polluting coal and nuclear technology on developing countries via the Johannesburg Earth Summit was met with a Greenpeace protest of gigantic proportions in Manila today, as half a dozen traditional Filipino harvest giants rallied at Manila Harbour.

The 5m papier mache protestors, and a traditional Filipino 25-piece string band, were on hand to welcome the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, on the first stop of the South East Asia Choose Positive Energy tour. The tour promotes clean renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and supports the people of South East Asia who reject polluting negative energy, such as coal and nuclear.

The giants, or "higantes", are one of the Philippine's most famous cultural icons. Historically regional workers made "higantes" for the harvest celebrations to both give thanks for the crop, and at the same time poke fun at their unaware Spanish overseers, who assumed the giants were honouring rather than mocking them. Greenpeace South East Asia campaigns director, Athena Ballesteros, described their appearance today as an apt response to the Spanish European Commissioner's climate-disrupting proposal.

"This is energy colonialism at its worst," said Ballesteros. "Northern countries have no right to push their old-fashioned, polluting technology on developing countries. The demand for electricity in developing countries is growing, but these days there is a choice. Why should developing countries be forced to make the same mistakes their northern partners did? The European nuclear industry is on its knees, crippled by spiraling costs and a growing radioactive waste mountain. It is simply obscene for the European Commission to push its deadly mistakes on developing countries when the technology exists for clean, sustainable energy now."

Plans to build coal-fired power stations to meet the Philippines' expanding energy demand are mainly being funded from northern countries, with companies including the UK/French corporation, Alstom, seeking to gain massive profits from the sale of equipment and technology to the Philippines.

"Global warming will continue to threaten the economies of developing countries for as long as northern countries dump their dangerous old fashioned technology on us," said Ballesteros. "The worst of these nations, the Filthy Three - Australia, the US and Canada - that are seeking to undermine international action to address climate change, are just as keen as Europe to push their climate-disrupting fossil fuels and radioactive, waste-generating nuclear technology on us."

"Clean energy's contribution to sustainable development is indisputable. The EU and companies like Alstom should take the lead on renewable energy in countries like the Philippines instead of pushing for large-scale polluting power plants. We welcome renewable energy investments but we reject the expansion of coal or nuclear investments."

The Arctic Sunrise will visit both the Philippines and Thailand, where communities are rejecting the dirty energy technology of coal fired power stations, and demanding clean renewable energy to fill the growing demand. The Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, is presently campaigning in the North Sea against nuclear and fossil fuel energy on the northern leg of the Choose Positive Energy Tour.

Greenpeace is campaigning for governments to make a commitment at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, to provide clean and affordable renewable energy to the two billion people around the world who currently live without electricity. During the coming weeks, as the world's leaders prepare to meet in Johannesburg for the Earth Summit, the Choose Positive Energy Tour will illustrate that renewable energy is ready and able to replace dirty coal, oil, gas and nuclear power - not only in the future but today.