January 28, 2017
National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez emphasized the need for the Philippines to immediately shift from coal to renewable energy during the “Catholics & Coal” conference in Chicago, Illinois. The forum is hosted by the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology (CWCIT) of De Paul University. The event draws on Catholic Social Teaching to connect the American Church’s experience with the issue to the situation facing the Church in the global South.
During his presentation, Gariguez said the Philippines is becoming more heavily dependent on coal, contributing 44.5-percent to the power generation mix based on the 2015 data of the Department of Energy.
He added that “this is in total contradiction to the global consensus in the Paris climate conference, and an outright inconsistency with the country’s commitment in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to cut 70-percent of its carbon emission by 2030.
“The issue of coal mining and the operation of coal fired power plants all over our country is causing an alarming concern because of their harmful impacts,” the priest stressed.
Gariguez said that the extraction and utilization of fossil-fueled energy sources have caused damages to the environment, health, and livelihood of poor communities.
He cited as example the coal mining in Semirara Island, Antique, the longest-running coal mining project in the country. Its operation has led to immeasurable ecological destruction, including the destruction of hectares of mangroves due to clearing operations, land reclamation, dumping of infills, and siltation.
It also caused the buildup of toxic chemicals in surrounding waters, increase of cancerous particulate matter in the water and air due to the 24-hour production, and loss of coral areas owed to dumping of infills and pollution. Thus, affecting many residents relying on fishing and seaweed farming for food security and livelihood.
The Social Action Center of the Diocese of Antique likewise vehemently opposed the coal mining activities on the island, citing studies which showed how it destroyed over 83.92 hectares of 31 species of mangrove areas and more than two kilometers to sea of coral reefs from 2009 to 2014 alone.
Currently, the Philippines has 19 existing coal-fired power plants operating across the country. At least 39 more coal-fired power plants are expected to be operational by 2020.
Gariguez, however, said that “even without new dirty and harmful energy projects, the country can still fulfill its energy demands by building alternatives.”
As of September 2015, he said a total of 682 renewable energy projects have been approved with a potential generating capacity of 13,574.68 megawatts, while 242 more contracts are still pending for approval.
“Encouraging more public investments on renewable energy will allow us to pursue sustainable development that is for all, with less emissions and less harmful impacts to the health and livelihood of our communities,” he added.
File Photo of NASSA/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez. (Photo by: NASSA/Caritas Philippines)
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April Ann Abello-Bulanadi