Isabela rejects proposed PNOC coal project

Press release - June 29, 2006
‘We don’t want your coal mine and power plant’, Isabela community leaders and Greenpeace activists told the PNOC-EC Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation today, trooping to the state-owned company’s offices to express the province’s complete rejection of a proposed integrated coal mining and mine-mouth power plant project. Voicing the firm anti-coal stance of residents of the municipalities of Naguilian and Benito Soliven, and the city of Cauayan, in Isabela, the community leaders delivered a petition signed by 15,000 concerned Isabela citizens, resolutions from Naguillan and Benito Soliven municipal councils, and a letter from the Cauayan city council, all strongly opposing the proposed coal project.

To drive their message home, representatives from Isabela and volunteers from Greenpeace, some of whom wore protective coveralls and gas masks, blocked the gates of the PNOC compound with signs displaying skulls, symbolizing how coal plants are a menace to the environment and to human health.

"We absolutely reject PNOC's proposed mine-mouth coal-plant because it will threaten the lives of the people in the surrounding communities," said Isabela Anti-Coal Mine Mouth Alliance representative Fr. Tony Ancieta, "This coal project will pollute the air and water and ruin crops, devastating health and livelihoods."

Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel. The acute and long-term environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it an expensive and unacceptable burden to its host communities. The coal industry moreover is a major contributor to climate change, the greatest threat to our world today. The proposed project would be the Philippine's first coal-fired power plant located on a mine site. Under the original proposal, the project encompasses an area of 20,000 hectares, straddling the boundaries of Naguilian, Benito Soliven, and Cauayan, comprising more than 8,000 households who will be at risk from the mining and plant operations.

The PNOC has been persistently seeking approval from local communities for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) endorsement as a first step toward the implementation of the mine-mouth coal plant project. In 2001, the municipal council of Naguilian filed a resolution rejecting the proposed coal project. A similar resolution was filed in 2005 by its neighboring municipality Benito Soliven.

But despite the obvious lack of support from local communities, the PNOC continued to actively push for the project's approval. With a reworked proposal reducing the mine mouth coal plant's area to 9,000 hectares, the PNOC once again pursued endorsement, this time from Cauayan's city council which unanimously rejected the request last June 16. Local leaders, however, feel that the proposal will be revived regardless of the rejection of all three towns.

"No means no," said Cauayan City Councilor Dr. Francisco Mallillin, "The PNOC's mine mouth power plant has already been rejected by three towns. Clearly the project should be shelved. PNOC should not revive the proposal in any form, now or in the future."

"The opposition to the proposed mine mouth coal plant in Isabela is a testament to the growing movement against coal throughout the country," concluded Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Jasper Inventor, "There is no future with coal. The government therefore should stop the construction and expansion of more coal plants in the country and initiate a massive shift to clean, renewable energy with a clear target of 10% of our total energy needs generated from sun, wind, and modern biomass by the year 2010."

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environment problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and

peaceful future.

Other contacts: Jasper Inventor, Climate and Energy Campaigner, +63917 300 9567 Lea Guerrero, Media Campaigner, +632 434 7034 lo 104, +63916 3744969