No to Coal!

Feature story - March 30, 2001
Local communities in Negros Occidental and the international environmental group Greenpeace today dumped some two dozen sacks of charcoal at the entrance of the provincial capitol to warn incoming officials they would not tolerate continuing efforts to set up a dirty coal power project in the town of Pulupandan.

" If you don't want it in your backyard, don't dump it in ours!" said Ella Jacildo, head of the People of Pulupandan Against Coal Fired Power Plant (PPAC). "We are holding this actions to warn incoming provincial officials that resistance against the Central Negros Power Corporation's (CNPC) remains strong and spirited. We have fought this dirty energy project for three years and we are ready to continue fighting for as long as it takes. We will never accept dirty power projects in Pulupandan and the province."

Greenpeace activists also unfurled huge banners on the provincial capitol's rooftop and canopy demanding clean energy for Negros.

According to Greenpeace energy campaigner Red Constantino, the controversy over the dirty project is no longer confined to Pulupandan and the Philippines alone. He said they had already sent strongly worded statement s to the Australian Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) calling CNPC's project " a terrible investment choice". EFIC had earlier written community leaders of their interest in investing in the power project[1].

Constantino stressed that "investing in CNPC's coal plant will surely tarnish EFIC's image in the international business community. Not only in the project an environmental nightmare, it also continues to be despised by the people. Moreover, the project is fraught with anomalies so much so that even its major investors, Ogden Energy and Asea Brown Boveri, were forced to pull out last March" [2].

During the demonstration, Greenpeace presented to media a letter from CNPC President Facundo Yaneza dated May 17, 2001, pushing the Philippine Port Authority to grant it a Permit to Construct for the port facility of the coal plant.

"This is an outrageous letter considering that the DENR recalled the 'midnight' ECC on May 11, 2001," said Constantino. "The continued push of CNPC for a port facility is sheer contempt of the community's clear objection to the coal plant."[3]

The Department of Trade and Industry had also indicated the other month that while it was reviewing CNPC's registration with the Board Of Investments because of irregularities in its granting, the consortium cannot use its registration to leverage investors.[4] In a meeting with Greenpeace last week, Energy Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho said his department had not and would not accredit CNPC, given that 90 percent of the investors had already pulled out.[5]

At the rally Jacildo said: "We're taking the fight directly in the doorsteps of the provincial capitol in order the put the newly elected officials on notice. The same goes to DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez. He should not just recall the 'midnight' ECC. He should cancel it now!

Before proceeding to the capitol, the rallyists held symbolic occupation of the coal plant's site in Pulupandan where they put up large billboard that carried the message, " Rejected by the People: This dirty coal plant project is socially unacceptable to the community." Hundreds of rallyists wearing dusk masks occupied the land while community leaders called on the people to continue fighting for their environment.

The Pulupandan power plant, widely considered responsible for the heavy metal contamination of the town's waters, operated for a decade in the 1980's using purely coal for fuel.