Sarangani communities all set to knock out coal

Greenpeace calls for an Energy Revolution in the Philippines

Feature story - November 20, 2010
The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior today sailed into Maasim, Sarangani in Mindanao to join thousands of fisherfolks and community residents seeking to ‘knock out’ a proposal to build a coal power plant in their area.

In a first of its kind protest-at-sea, the ship was accompanied along Sarangani Bay by hundreds of small fishing boats to the shore beside the site of the proposed plant, where a team of fishermen formed the words “Clean Energy Now” using at least 75 boats.  On land, Sarangani communities formed a giant human banner with the words “No to coal” in San Felipe Colon Elementary school just a few hundred meters away from the coal plant project site.

“Coal is dirty energy.  It has negative effects on health because of its toxic emissions.  Like Manny Pacquiao, we want to knock out the proposed coal power plant in our community so that our air and water will remain clean for our children,” said Vicente Jatico, chair of Maasim People’s Coalition on Climate Change (MP3C).

Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Throughout its entire life cycle, from mining to combustion to waste disposal, coal has a dire impact not only on the environment and human health but also on the social fabric of communities living near mines, power plants and waste dumping sites. Aside from generating massive climate changing C02 emissions, the burn of coal creates toxics pollution which contaminates water supplies and damages ecosystems. Coal combustion also emits other greenhouse gases like methane, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and liberates toxic substances like arsenic and mercury which can disrupt human mental and physical development.

Coal combustion is the largest single source of atmospheric mercury emissions. There are no commercially available technologies to prevent or eliminate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.  Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin which attacks the central nervous system.

Conal Holding Corporation is planning to build a US$ 450-million, 200 MW coal fired power plant in Kamanga town. Conal claims that their so-called “clean coal” technology and planned 4,100-hectare ‘carbon sequestration’ project will minimize the negative impacts.

Greenpeace disputes these claims, stressing that no coal-fired power plants are truly ‘clean’.  'Clean coal’ techniques do not eliminate pollution but only shift the problem from one environmental media to another. Whenever coal is burnt, contaminants are released via the fly ash, the gaseous air emissions, water outflows or the bottom ash left after burning. Ultimately, these pollutants will still end up damaging the environment.

Fisherfolks are among the worst impacted victims of coal plant operations. The site of the Conal coal plant overlaps a marine sanctuary in Sarangani Bay. Construction will adversely affect the rich coral beds in the area, and the resulting air pollution from operating the plant would have negative impacts on the local fish catch and crop yields of farmers in the area.

“Greenpeace is supporting communities in Southeast Asia in their struggle against coal.  Coal is a curse to local communities and to the planet. Building  more coal-fired power plants means putting the health and livelihood of local communities on the line again for the sake of short-sighted and narrow economic interests.

Despite the worsening manifestations of a changing climate, it is unfortunate that many companies and decision makers are still obsessed with myopic and destructive development schemes,” said Amalie Obusan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner.

The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior is in the Philippines for the final leg of the “Turn the Tide” tour of Southeast Asia.  Greenpeace is calling on ASEAN member nations to support green investments and adopt low-carbon growth pathway for future development.  The Tour marks 10 years of Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigns to protect forests, catalyze an Energy Revolution, promote sustainable agriculture, and stop water pollution in the region.