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San Fernando, La Union; 29 July 2018 – Following the contamination of shorelines due to a coal spill from the Holcim cement factory in Bacnotan, residents of La Union province are calling on the government for corporate accountability and better measures towards protection of the environment and citizens from toxic contamination by industrial plants in the area.
“Ito ay patunay na ang coal ay delikado at hindi dapat payagan sa La Union o maging sa ibang lugar. Maaaring mas malala pa ang pinsala na naidudulot ng coal kumpara sa ating nakikita, at maaring higit pa sa coal spill ang ating maranasan,” said Cris Palabay, Chairperson of Isalbar Ti Pintas Ti La Union (Save the Beauty of La Union) Coalition.
[“This is proof that coal is dangerous and should not be allowed in La Union, or any other place. The impacts may be worse than what we’re able to observe, and we may even face more than just coal spills.”]
During a television news interview, the Region 1 Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) stated that coal threatens marine and other wildlife due to its mercury, arsenic and cadmium content.  La Union, considered the “Surfing Capital of the North,” relies on tourism and agriculture for income and livelihood of its citizens. Local residents are wary of exposure to toxic pollution, not just from the coal spill but also from the burning of coal in the facility.
“Nananawagan kami sa Holcim na baguhin ang kanilang operasyon at lumihis sa paggamit ng coal,” Palabay added. [“We call on Holcim to shift their operations and stop using coal”]
According to Holcim, heavy rains on July 13 caused water coming from the mountain to carry coal from their stockpile into the shoreline. They’ve conducted a shore clean-up to try to contain the accident and they are now awaiting the assessment of EMB on the extent of contamination.
“The provincial government and the Bacnotan LGU should act on this quickly. The ocean is contaminated already and we need measures beyond just a clean-up from Holcim, DENR-EMB, and the local government. The public has the right to know the extent of the damage brought by the incident and we demand accountability. La Union developed because of our environment and ocean, we should therefore prioritize its protection above all else” said Atty. Romeo Camacho, legal consultant of Support and Advocate Valiantly for the Environment (SAVE LUNA).
The coal spill started just a couple of days after Isalbar Coalition, SAVE LUNA, and other organizations and concerned citizens staged a “Break Free from Coal” barefoot parade and festival in San Fernando and San Juan on July 13-14. The events call attention to the threat of a 670-megawatt coal-fired power plant being constructed in Luna, La Union, by the Global Luzon Electric Development Corporation (GLEDC),.
“A coal spill from a 670-MW coal-fired power plant will surely be multiple times more devastating compared to what La Union is experiencing right now. Fly ash, toxic fumes and other dangers are a reality for communities hosting coal plants. And that’s aside from the contributions to carbon emissions, which fuels climate change and impacts Filipinos the most. We call on the government to take us off this false path to development, and instead lead us towards a clean energy future,“ said Khevin Yu, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.
The 2016 Greenpeace report “Coal: A Public Health Crisis,” based on a study conducted with Harvard University, estimates that 2,400 Filipinos are dying from coal-related air pollution every year.
“We ask President Duterte to stay true to his pronouncement during SONA 2018 that the environment should be top priority, by ensuring the environmental integrity of La Union. We call on the local government to address this issue by conducting a public investigation of the incident, exact accountability for the parties involved, and to stop the use of coal in this paradise called La Union,” Atty. Camacho added.
Sign the petition to #ProtectLaUnion >> www.act.gp/protectlaunion
Notes to editors:
 TV Patrol North Luzon, 17 July 2018 edition, http://news.abs-cbn.com/tvpatrol/north-luzon
Cris Palabay, Koalisyon Isalbar Ti Pintas Ti La Union (Coalition to Save the Beauty of La Union), +639177112463, firstname.lastname@example.org
Atty. Romeo Camacho, Support and Advocate Valiantly for the Environment (SAVE LUNA), +639277166747, +639452110877
Khevin Yu, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines, +639175213356, email@example.com
JP Agcaoili, Communications Manager, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines, +639498891334, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos and videos:
Grace Duran-Cabus, Photo Desk, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, +639498891335 email@example.com