Warning shot fired against peaceful protesters in Philippines

ข่าวประชาสัมพันธ์ - กรกฎาคม 21, 2545
Sunday 21 July 2002 / Manila, Philippines: Today a security guard fired a warning shot in the air over the heads of Greenpeace activists taking part in a peaceful protest at the biggest coal-fired power station in the Philippines. Five activists were arrested early this morning at Sual power plant, in the province of Pangasinan. The plant, which was built with funding from the United Kingdom, France and USA, and runs on coal from China, Indonesia and Australia was listed as one of the five most problematic power stations in the country last week by the Philippine Government.

Five activists from onboard the Greenpeace ship MV Arctic Sunrise climbed the cranes at the Sual dock where a shipment of coal was being unloaded and hung a banner reading "Clean Energy Now". A team of 30 activists, including teams in three inflatable boats bearing "Choose Positive Energy" flags, were supporting the climbers, ready to undertake further activities. The shot was fired as activists attempted to paint on the ship unloading coal. No-one was hurt. The arrested activists were from the Philippines, USA and Canada.

"Like developing countries around the world, the Philippines is hungry for clean, reliable power but coal-fired power stations like Sual are not the answer," said Greenpeace South East Asia campaigns director, Athena Ballesteros. "Coal is one of the most greenhouse intensive fuels - it is dirty, expensive and damages our climate. That's why we want investment in renewable energy like solar, wind and modern biomass power for the Philippines."

The Philippines has been fast-tracking electricity generation since an energy crisis in the early 1990s, and plans to increase its coal-fired capacity from 3025Mw to 4085Mw by 2010. A massive 99% of the funding for this comes from overseas and private sector lending. Less than 1% of the Philippines' energy plan includes solar wind or modern biomass power.

"Foreign interests and foreign money are dictating the Philippines' energy policy," said Ballesteros. "People of the Philippines have been campaigning against coal-fired power stations like Sual for years. We don't want this dirty, conventional technology dumped on us from rich northern countries that are more interested in profits than our needs, or protecting our climate."

Sual is typical of the carbon-based power plants the Philippines has been developing in the past decade. It is owned by the US subsidiary Mirant, which is the largest foreign investor in the Philippines, and was built by Alstom, a UK and French owned corporation. It runs on coal imported from China, Indonesia and Australia.

"There hasn't been a new coal-fired power station built in the UK since 1972," said Anita Goldsmith of Greenpeace UK, on site at the action. "If coal is not good enough at home, then why is Tony Blair and the UK Government dumping this dirty, technology on developing nations like the Philippines? It's hypocritical and scandalous of the UK to push coal in Asia. While the UK promises to cut greenhouse emissions at home, it is exporting more than half that amount overseas."

Export credit agencies in both France and the United Kingdom have backed the Sual power plant with millions of dollars and support subsidies.

"There is very little risk to Alstom to switch its investment from fossil fuels to renewables," said Laetitia DeMarez, climate campaigner from Greenpeace France, speaking at the action. "Alstom provides some 20% of the world's energy capacity, so if it used its financial influence to strongly invest in renewables, it really could change the world."

The protest today elicited reactions from members of the Philippine government. Congresswoman Loretta Ann Rosales supported the Greenpeace call for a switch to clean energy in the Philippines and said that the plant should be investigated not only for its pollution but also the contract under which it operates.

The Arctic Sunrise is visiting the Philippines and Thailand on the Choose Positive Energy Tour of Southeast Asia, 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.

The Choose Positive Energy Tour is part of Greenpeace's countdown to the Earth Summit held in Johannesburg next month. 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, and for OECD governments to move 20% of their energy investments to renewables. During the coming weeks 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.