“The Filipino people must demonstrate on World Environment Day our commitment to protect our natural heritage and ecology by opposing DMCI’s coal-fired power plant in the globally-renowned ecological treasure that is the province of Palawan.”
By BETTINA CATLI
MANILA – Various groups picketed outside the David M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI) Holdings office in Makati, on June 5, World Environment Day, protesting what they called “environmental crimes and human rights violations” of the company.
Environmental activists of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) denounced DMCI’s planned 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Narra, Palawan, which was recently approved by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).
Members of the Families of the Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos), the indigenous peoples alliance Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu), and Karapatan also joined the protest as they sought to surface missing Manobo activist John Calaba of Sultan Kudarat.
“The Filipino people must demonstrate on World Environment Day our commitment to protect our natural heritage and ecology by opposing DMCI’s coal-fired power plant in the globally-renowned ecological treasure that is the province of Palawan,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
“The pollution that will be caused by the coal-fired power plant will not only be restricted in one place. It will also spread through the air and water sheds, meaning that the host community will not be the only one affected,” Dulce said.
Coal-fired power plants are large contributors to global warming and climate change. It is also “the most polluting all fossil fuels” and produces much of the CO2 emissions present in the atmosphere.
“Pollution knows no boundaries,”said Dulce, adding that the threat of pollution will affect flora and fauna endemic to Palawan.
“It will also pose a threat to the people whose livelihood depends on the rich mountains of Palawan and the community-based ecosystems built there once pollution claims the land,” he said.
The Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE) said there are other options for renewable energy to resolve the power outages in the province. In a statement, the group said the experience of communities in Cebu and Quezon, and in countries such as India, China, USA and Germany show the “adverse environmental, health and livelihood impacts of coal power plants.”
“The true cost of coal power embodies high unpaid health liabilities which must ultimately be paid by our citizens and the government. It shortens lives, reduces labor productivity and is the major source of greenhouse gases leading to climate change,” said the group.
PACE called on Palaweños to write letters to local government officials to protest the government clearance given to DMCI’s coal plant.
Palawan is declared by UNESCO as a man and biosphere reserve in 1990. It is home to the country’s diverse ecosystems and has been acknowledged as the last ecological frontier in the Philippines.
Kalikasan PNE cited other “anti-environment” DMCI projects all over the country.
“DMCI’s group of companies has been extensively logging in almost 100,000 hectares of forest areas in Mindanao over the past three decades. They have been irresponsibly mining Nickel in Zambales that has already caused massive water pollution. DMCI’s coal-fired power plant in Batangas is a continuing air polluter that is among the 13 power firms to face legal action from the Energy Regulatory Commission for manipulating power rates,” explained Dulce.
“Even though DMCI says that it is clean coal that they are using, it doesn’t mean that all toxic elements are taken away,” said Dulce.
During the protest, the group Desaparecidos wanted to deliver its letter of inquiry addressed to DMCI about Calaba’s disappearance. The inquiry was in accordance with Republic Act 10353, or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, the group said.
However, security guards at the DMCI building refused to let in representatives of the group, claiming that there was no one inside to receive the letter.
Calaba, 28, the public information officer of Kisasabanay sa Dulangan Manobo (Kiduma), was last seen on April 30 with paramilitary men who also are DMCI guards at the company compound in Sultan Kudarat. Calaba has been missing and is feared dead.
Calaba’s group had criticized the environmental damages and land-grabbing projects of DMCI in their communities.
Piya Malayao, secretary general of Katribu, said the lands that used to belong to Calaba’s people are now being used by DMCI, after it bulldozed the people’s farms and crops to make way for their own under project for the Integrated Forestry Management Area. She said this pushed many people deeper into poverty.
“DMCI violates human rights as they evict communities from their lands and take away their source of income,” Malayao said.
She said Calaba was determined to find a solution for his people’s suffering after his child died, seven months after being born.
“He was very firm about expelling these land-grabbers who have no claims on their ancestral lands.” Malayao said.
The groups also blamed the private army of DMCI for threatening and harassing the Manobos.
“Imagine: goons – armed with the best weapons mining corporations and plantation owners could buy, trained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and legitimized by the President — are going after indigenous people,” Malayao said.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said Calaba is the 27th victim of enforced disappearance under the Aquino administration.