Greenpeace: PNoy’s energy plans for Mindanao will only feed conflict

Local groups call for a review of coal plant proposals

Press release - August 17, 2011
Greenpeace, together with Mindanao-based groups, today challenged President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to scrap current energy plans for Mindanao and “start from scratch.” The environment watchdog laments that solutions put forth to meet the growing energy requirements in Mindanao rely mostly on new coal-fired power plants, which it says will not really contribute to economic and social development in the area, but instead lock Mindanao into a carbon-intensive scenario that will only exacerbate poverty and armed conflict.

The challenge to PNoy was posed during the first Mindanao Anti-Coal Forum, organized by Greenpeace and participated in by anti-coal communities from all over Mindanao. Participants have expressed frustration that industry and government have been pushing for coal-fired power plants in their areas without holding proper public consultations and education with the local communities and other stakeholders.

“Coal is a common curse for communities living in its shadow. In every country where coal is mined and used to generate power, we find communities suffering the impacts from environmental damage and health problems. Burning coal also accelerates climate change which impacts communities especially for places like the Philippines, which is among the world’s most vulnerable and least prepared to deal with climate change,” said Amalie Obusan, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, speaking from the Ecoland Suites in Davao City where the Anti-Coal Forum is being held.

“The extraction and burning of coal is perilous for communities in Asia living near mines or in the vicinity of power plants. Local people are susceptible to various ailments including respiratory diseases, cancer, liver failure and birth defects. The worst impacted among them would be children and pregnant women. Clearly the future of Mindanao is in danger unless we change the path we are taking right now,” said Lia Jasmin Esquillo of Dabawenyos Ayaw sa Coal (DAC).

Communities in Mindanao are coming together to fight off what they say seem to be a concerted effort by the coal energy and the mining industries to corner Mindanao and lock it into a carbon-intensive economy.

If current plans push through, a total of 5 coal-fired power plant projects in Mindanao [1], which local communities are calling into question, are seen to leave no room for renewable energy (RE) ventures in the projected future, even though RE costs are estimated to achieve parity with fossil fuel costs within the next five to seven years and become cheaper from there.

These proposed coal-fired power plants are linked to the increasing mining projects in Mindanao potentially to provide energy to the mining operations and other industries such as cement and shipyards.  The proposed project in Maasim threatens not only communities around the site, but also the rich Tinoto-Tampuan coral reef, which is now a protected area, located right across the proposed coal-fired power plant site.

“These dirty energy projects threaten Mindanao’s agricultural gains and will endanger our drive towards food security.  Other social issues, such as the displacement of indigenous peoples, are also on the rise with such projects, and mine sites are also militarized, all of which further fuel social conflict in the area.  Coal will only contribute more to the conflict while locking Mindanao into a carbon- intensive economy, which will leave it poorer as fossil fuels become more expensive and the rest of the world further develops and turns more to renewable energy sources” said Tom Villarin, Executive Director of Sustainable Integrated Area Development Initiative in Mindanao – Convergence for Asset Reform and Regional Development (SIM CARRD).

Greenpeace is proposing that government immediately draws up plans for the massive deployment in Mindanao of renewable energy projects, which are increasingly becoming more cost-effective and more reliable, compared to fossil fuels.  According to the Greenpeace report, “The Philippine Energy [R]evolution Roadmap to 2020”, as much as 80 percent of the energy requirements in Mindanao by 2020 can be met by renewable energy sources, such as wind, geothermal and  solar, which are abundant in the area. [2]

“Today’s forum is a step further in galvanizing Mindanao communities and organizations towards empowering people in understanding and taking action against the dangers posed by coal power, especially when there are better solutions already available.  We’re hoping it will develop into a national movement and we’re hoping that PNoy will be a part of it.  Mindanao needs it, and the people of Mindanao deserve it,” Obusan concluded.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

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Contact Information:

Amalie Obusan, Climate and Energy Campaigner, +63 917 584 9663,

JP Agcaoili, Media Campaigner, +63 917 631 2750, +63 2 3321807 loc 121,

Notes:

[1] Coal-fired power plants in the pipeline for Mindanao include:

  • 300-MW in Davao City proposed by Aboitiz Power Corp. and given an endorsement
  • 200-MW in Maasim, Sarangani and 100-MW in Zamboanga City proposed by Conal Holdings Inc.
  • Up to 300-MW of mine-mouth coal plant by San Miguel in General Santos City
  • A 150-MW expansion of the Mindanao Phividec Coal Plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental between Aboitiz Power Corp., German company Evonik Steag GmbH and La Filipina Uy Gongco Corp.
  • 500-MW for own use by Sagittarius Mining Inc., in Malalag, Davao del Sur to supply the power needs of its copper-gold mining project in Tampakan, South Cotabato

Conal Holdings Corp. plans to build a US$450-million 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Kamanga in Maasim. The plant is envisioned to eventually increase capacity to 900MW over the next 15 years.  San Miguel Corporation on the other hand plans to build a US$150-300 million, 150-300 megawatt coal-fired plant in General Santos City with coal coming from the Daguma Coal mine in nearby Lake Sebu, also in Mindanao, scheduled to come on stream by 2012.  Another 300-MW plant is proposed in Davao City by Aboitiz Power plus another 100-MW in Zamboanga City, also proposed by Conal.  An expansion on the STEAG coal plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental is also expected to be completed in 2013.

[2] The document is available at www.greenpeace.org.ph/2020roadmap

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