“It surely will be the largest investment ever made in Davao City or this region of Mindanao. The benefits of this clean coal power project can make Davao the most competitive city in Mindanao—perhaps even the Philippines,” said company chief executive officer Erramon I. Aboitiz . Similarly, APC’s First Vice President for Mindanao Affairs Manuel Orig said that the proposed coal-fired power plant will” thrust Davao to new economic heights.”
APC is said to be the country’s biggest generator of renewable energy resources. It operates the Ambuklao, Binga and Magat hydroelectric plants as well as the Tiwi and Makban geothermal power plant complexes.
For all the attempts of the APC to assure the public regarding the benefits of its proposed project, environmental groups remain steadfast in their opposition.
“We must all unite in the global effort of reversing the impacts of man-made climate change. A typical 300 MW coal-fired utility burns 150 tons of coal per hour and it emits 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. CFPPs mainly contribute to global warming and climate change which has tremendous impact in agriculture, forestry, wetlands, rivers, watersheds, biodiversity, and communities. It will as well lead to the depletion of our freshwater sources,” said Morales.
According to Morales, a typical coal plant produces 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide; 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide — a chemical that causes acid rain; 720 tons of carbon monoxide; 170 pounds of mercury; 225 pounds of arsenic; 114 pounds of lead; four pounds of cadmium, and other toxic heavy metals.
“Power plants are not the solution to any power crisis; they only contribute to climate change,” he said.
Expert toxicologist, Dr. Romy Quijano from the University of the Philippines – Manila also warned of the government’s plan of reviving the decommissioned Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. He said that instead of reviving the BNPP, the privatization of the power industry be reversed, and that sustainable, safe, and appropriate energy sources be built.
During the first committee hearing on Aboitiz’ proposed coal fired power plant where Dr. Quijano presented the toxicology of coal, Quijano stressed that coal fired power plants have radioactivity that people should be warned about. He said coal-combustion waste has more than 20 toxics and heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead as among the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals emitted by coal fired power plants.
“Low concentration of lead, even 10 ug/dl, can increase the risk of neurologic diseases especially in young children,” Quijano said.
Quijano also dismissed the arguments of coal-plant proponents that coal energy is safe.
“They use science to further their destructive projects but that what they do is not science. When you go to an area of a coal fired power plant for one day and then conclude that there is no pollution simply because there is no black smoke being emitted, that is a very unscientific way of thinking,” he said. Quijano,The toxicologist cited a study conducted by the Center for Clean Air Policy wherein it was stated that 50 percent of the mercury emitted from coal-fired power plants can travel up to 600 miles from the power plant. The study, “Power Plant Emissions and Water Quality,” was conducted in 1997.
Morales said that while advocates of coal-fired power plant with its harmful energy production have all the profit to gain, “The poor and marginalized sectors are the most vulnerable to the negative impact of climate change and tragedies worsened by extractive and deadly sources of energy,” he said.
International Climate Agreements Violated
Protests against coal-fired power plants are also active in Cebu where environmentalist say that the said plants “violate every single international climate agreement.”
As of this writing, the environment group 350.org is filing a complaint with the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) against the operations of Korean Power Electric Corp. – Salcon Power Corp. (Kepco-SPC) in Barangay Colon, Naga City and the provincial government for its support for Kepco.
“Our community is facing a debacle and a tragedy with KEPCO’s high-handed disregard of the rights of the people to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment. The existence of the coal-fired power plant is a clear violation of international climate agreements, particularly in bringing down carbon emissions and protecting local communities. But KEPCO still keeps at it,” said 350.org spokesperson Vince Cinches.
Cinches said his group will bring these issues to the attention of the international community.
“We will report how our province, instead of pursuing a dramatic de-carbonization by pursuing the development of carbon neutral energy sources, has instead increased our climate footprint by encouraging the construction of more coal-fired power plants,” he said.
Cinches said his group also aims to highlight the irresponsibility of local institutions for having no adaptation and mitigation programs, while continually making communities more vulnerable to the impact of climate induced tragedies such as storm surges, flooding, dengue, rising sea levels, among others.