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An anti-coal protest in the Philippines. An anti-coal protest in the Philippines.  

Philippine diocese, activists oppose coal power plants

Environmental activists have rallied around a Philippine diocese in Quezon province demanding the government stop the construction of new coal-fired plants in the area as it is inconsistent with the efforts to mitigate climate change.

By Robin Gomes

Bishop Mel Rey Uy of Lucena has released a statement, signed by over 100 members of the clergy, calling for plans for the proposed power plants to be scrapped. 

The diocese argues cancellation of the projects will stand as a decisive rejection of all unsustainable and carbon-intensive practices, not just in Quezon, but in the entire country.

“We oppose these coal-fired power plants also because they are entirely inconsistent with the care for our common home so desperately needed today,” the bishop wrote.

He released his statement on Tuesday, September 1, when Christians worldwide marked World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.  The annual observance kicked off a month-long Season of Creation, which concludes on October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, regarded by Christians as the patron of ecology.

"Power for People Coalition"

The Power for People Coalition (P4P), the country’s widest network of civil society organizations, cooperatives, consumers, and communities against deadly, dirty, costly energy,  joined the Diocese of Lucena in opposing the three coal-fired power plant projects in Quezon.

“No new coal project must stand in Filipinos’ way to clean and affordable energy for all,” said Gerry Arances, convenor of P4P.  “We stand in solidarity with communities in Quezon in their bid to abandon coal,” he said in a statement on Monday.

With the country’s growing energy demand, the government has continued to approve new coal-fired plants, raising concerns that “it will add more environmental degradation and health risks to our locality,” Bishop Uy wrote

Coal: dirty, deadly, costly energy

Two new coal-fired power plants have been planned for Pagbilao town by SMC Global Power Holdings.  Another plant is scheduled to be set up on Atimonan town by Meralco.

“We call upon these corporations and their power subsidiaries to listen to the cry of the Earth and cancel their plans to set up this dirty, deadly, and costly source of energy,” the clergy of Lucena wrote.  “We appeal to the local and national government and their respective agencies to listen to the cry of the people of Quezon and disallow these projects and any further coal plants in our beloved province.”

Health hazards, land rights

“Already, the people of Quezon have suffered respiratory and skin diseases associated with toxic coal plant emissions,” Bishop Uy pointed out. “They have been robbed of their land, their livelihood, and their rights from pollution, development aggression, and exclusion from decision-making processes.”

The diocese called on the proponents of the projects to put their efforts and resources in developing Quezon’s renewable energy sources instead of “outdated, profit-oriented and polluting power plants”.

Municipalities in Lucena Diocese already have an installed coal capacity of at least 1,644 MW. The proposed projects would triple this with an additional 3,330 MW of coal.

Earlier in November 2019, P4P along with the Church in Quezon and community members had complained with the government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) against the Atimonan coal plant for its failure to adhere to environmental and community education requirements.

A 3-decades bishops' crusade 

Over the past 3 decades, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has been issuing a series of pastoral letters on environment-related issues. 

The 8th and the latest of this series, released on July 16, 2019, urged Church communities to ecological conversion, listen to the cry of the Earth and the poor and act together to mitigate the ill effects of climate change.

The letter highlights issues facing the country, such as irresponsible mining, the building of dams, and the growing dependence on fossil fuel-based energy, such as coal.

The bishops have also urged Catholic institutions to disinvest their financial resources from “dirty energy” like “coal-fired power plants, mining companies and other destructive extractive projects”.

04 September 2020, 15:36