A government official, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, academicians, bishops and environmental activists were among those who are calling on the public in various parts of the world to sign an online petition urging the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to stop construction of a 15 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in Barangay Bato-bato, Narra in Palawan by DMCI Power Corp. (DPC).
DPC is a sister company of Semirara Mining and Power Corp. owned and controlled by the family of David Consunji.
Last July, Semirara’s coal mining operation in Caluya, Antique, was suspended by the Department of Energy (DOE) after nine of the company’s workers died in their shift during bad weather.
The following month, DOE lifted its suspension order as it found that Semirara had no fault on the death of its workers.
The Consunji family controls about 92 percent of coal mining business in the Philippines.
The company also exports coal to many countries.
The latest project of Consunji’s coal-mining business is the DPC’s 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Palawan.
It was approved by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) on May 28, 2015.
PCSD issued a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance, which, according to DENR, is a requirement before it will give an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the Consunji-owned firm.
The Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE) immediately strongly lambasted the PCSD.
PACE pointed out, in a statement, “The manner by which the PCSD issued a SEP clearance to the project demonstrated this body’s brazen disregard of its core mandate to protect Palawan’s environment.”
“The PCSD as a permanent regulatory agency surrendered itself to machinations of local politics, kowtowing to the provincial governor’s personal dictates,” it added.
Environmental activists and concerned individuals expressed active support to the residents of Palawan by creating an online petition against DPC coal mining project in the province.
The petitioners posted a letter entitled “Protect Palawan’s Pristine Environment” in act.350.org strongly urging the public to “[h]elp us deliver a message to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.”
Among the leading petitioners were Commissioner NaderevYeb Sano of Climate Change Commission; Dr. Antonio La Vina, Dean of Ateneo School of Government; Ma. Regina Paz Lopez, managing director ABS-CBN LingkodKapamilyaFoundation; Enriquez Nunez, country executive director, Conservation International—Philippines; Dr. Elsa Manarpaac, president of Western Philippines University; Lolita Carbon, singer/songwriter of Asin; Bishop Pedro Arigo, Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa City; Bishop Edgardo Juanich, Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Palawan; and lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr., a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee.
They contended that by “[p]lacing a coal plant in Palawan, the last remaining paradise in the Philippines, in the face of Typhoon Haiyan and climate change is unacceptable!”
In a sidebar letter, the petitioners also emphasized to Mr.Paje that “[a]s the DENR Secretary, you must be very aware of the importance of Palawan, an environmentally critical area and the last ecological frontier of the Philippines.”
“Palawan’s pristine environment, the top reason why many visitors come, is being threatened by the construction of DMCI’s 15 MW coal-fired power plant in Barangay Bato-bato, Narra,” they continued.
At the same time, the petitioners at act.350.org pointed out that the residents of Palawan have asserted that the local government of the province must instead tap the run-of-the-river hydro power plant since it is “cheaper and cleaner energy sources” than the coal plant.
The petitioners has reminded Paje about the DENR’s job of putting an end to environmental degradation in the country that the “DENR should turn down the DMCI’s coal plant project in Palawan which will destroy its precious ecosystem.”
They said carbon emissions from coal plants are verified as the primary cause of global warming and Typhoon Haiyan had made climate change more real to Filipinos.
“Please disapprove the DMCI coal plant in Palawan because it is the right thing to do,” the petitioners asked the Environment secretary.