Coal review resolution welcomed

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ENVIRONMENT advocates have welcomed the Climate Change Commission (CCC) resolution to review policies pertaining to new and existing coal-fired power plants in the country in light of the Philippines’ international commitment on shifting to a low-carbon economy.

Members of Green Thumb Coalition, a network of civil society and grassroots organizations seeking the incoming administration's action on environmental issues, viewed the resolution as a positive step in moving away from dirty and harmful energy towards sustainable, renewable energy for all.

Center for Energy, Ecology and Development convenor Gerry Arances said streamlining policies on fossil fuel energy sources - particularly coal – is long overdue considering the existence of policies like the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 and the highly-contested Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

“For years under the present administration, there has been conflict between government’s pronouncements promoting utilization of RE resources and its actual policy of opening up the country to construction of new coal-fired power plant projects,” he said.

He said with 27 new coal-fired power plants adding to the 19 existing facilities in the country, the Philippines’ power mix grew even more dependent on coal at the expense of RE.

“With growing international rejection of coal from European governments to US state government, technology utilizing this energy source has been proven to be obsolete,” he said. “As a recent Oxford study concluded, these facilities if approved will become stranded assets, binding our country to a phased-out energy resource for the next 50 years while the rest of the world is shifting to renewables."

Communities threatened by the construction of coal-fired power plants also welcomed CCC's pronouncement on “harmonizing” coal plant policies with those on environmental protection and international obligations to combat climate change.

Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa called on the energy and environment departments to "immediately issue administrative orders reflective of the CCC resolution."

“While not explicitly stated, the six-month comprehensive review of policies and permit processes entail an immediate moratorium on all coal operations,” he said.

He said immediately suspending coal-fired power plants' operations, coal mining and processing of proposed coal plant applications are necessary if policies on coal will be subject to review based on environmental and climate impacts of these.

“We must uphold the precautionary principle which suggests activities that could possibly damage welfare of people must be treated as harmful until proven otherwise,” he said.

Pedrosa also said moratorium on all coal-related activities must carry over to the new administration regardless of who's appointed to the incoming Cabinet.

He noted the Duterte camp's response to Green Thumb's presidential survey "agrees with the eventual phaseout of coal power plants and other plants that use harmful fuels and steer the country for more investments in RE.” (PNA/OpinYon)