“Quit coal,” environmentalists and farmers echo former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA ��� Environmentalists are calling for the closure of Calaca coal plants in Batangas, saying their operations in the past three decades have adversely affected the people’s lives and livelihood.
In a picket-dialogue at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City today, March 17, farmers and fisherfolk from Batangas and Cavite joined environmentalist groups who urgently called for a stop to the expansion of the 600-megawatt Sem-Calaca Power Corp., and for the closure of other coal plants.
The groups led by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) brought their complaints about the effects on the health, livelihood and environment which they attribute to the coal plants in Calaca.
Officials of the Environment Impact Assessment and Management Division (EIAMD) of the Environment Management Bureau (EMB), Mavic Yao and Raquel Smith-Ortega, said they will look into the cases forwarded by the groups.
Located in San Rafael village, Sem-Calaca was the formerly government-owned Batangas Coal-Fired Power Plant, now owned by the DM Consunji Inc. (DMCI). Sem-Calaca is up for expansion to 1,000 mw.
“Calaca has become the dirty kitchen of big corporations, where they keep their heavy industrial operations, such as coal plants,” said Gigi Bautista, convener of the green group POWER-JUST from Southern Tagalog region.
Bautista said that another coal plant, the 135-mw Southern Luzon Thermal Energy Corp., a joint venture of the Ayala Corp and Phinma Group, began operations last year, also in Calaca, in Puting Bato West village.
The groups said the coal plant operations have accumulated pollution in the air, water and land, which has caused hardships on the population.
“Batangas residents have suffered through the hazards of the Calaca Coal Power Plant for 31 years now since Marcos time, marked by deteriorating health conditions amongst communities adjacent to this pollutive power plant,” said Petti Enriquez, secretary general of provincial environment group Bukal-Batangas.
Enriquez cited illnesses experienced by Calaca residents, such as lower respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, hypertension and diarrhea, which they said are possibly linked to coal pollution. She lamented that Batangueños will be further burdened with the proposed construction of the 600-mw Batangas City Coal-fired Power Plant, owned by JGSummit of Gokongwei.
Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator, lambasted President Aquino for the rise of coal plants in the country, with his approval of the construction of 29 coal plants during his term.
“BS Aquino is the most coal power-addict president ever. During his term, dirty coal plants became the number one source of electricity in the country,” he said. Ironically, this was in spite of the Philippines’ commitments to clean energy and decreasing its carbon footprint, as well as the global call to stop using “dirty” fuel.
“Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s recent challenge to the Philippine government to shift away from coal power is the latest in a growing number of global leaders urging the Philippines to reverse its fossil-fuel addiction,” Bautista said. He added that the DENR should heed such global and local calls and impose moratorium on coal plants.
Bautista of POWER-JUST told Bulatlat that at least six villages in the vicinity of coal plants have opposed the continued pollutive operations. But local leaders and environmentalist groups are being harassed by state forces, such as the Philippine Air Force 730th Combat Group which is deployed in the area.
“Their resistance is being met with militarization,” he said. Some leaders were reportedly included in the military “order of battle.”
Residents from various towns in Batangas have shown increasing opposition to mining and coal plant operations, as church and environmentalist groups led protests against corporate operations that had resulted to environmental degradation and pollution.