EARTHLIFE Africa, a nongovernment organization that began as an anti-apartheid movement in 1998 and grew into a movement to reduce pollution and protect the natural resources, is urging the Philippines not to go the way of Africa in terms of dependence on coal plants.
Earthlife Project coordinator Tristen Taylor flew to Manila a week after Nelson Mandela died to meet with environmentalists and to talk about post Mandela situation in South Africa.
Taylor told The Manila Times that he came to the Philippines to “learn about alternative sources of renewable energy from our hydro and geothermal power plants, diesel and fuel, and windmills and to make this an advocacy for South Africa.”
He said that 96 percent of South Africa’s electricity comes from the “dirty and dangerous coal power plants that are 10 times larger than what the Philippines has. The plants run up to 4,800 megawatts [MW].”
He said it is ironic that the Philippines is turning to coal power plants to support and sustain its energy needs and to avert a possible energy crisis.
Reports from the Department of Energy showed that 12 new coal plants are already in the pipeline with a total of 4,285 MW and six more are being proposed for Cebu, Negros, Isabela, Zamboanga Sibugay, Masbate and Palawan with a total output of 692 MW.
The department also said that it is pushing for an increase in coal production to as high as 250 percent.
According to Val de Guzman of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), there are now 29 operational coal power plants scattered all over the country and 17 more coal operating contracts (COCs) were awarded this February 2013.
“I don’t think world leaders are listening [to the dire warnings]about climate change,” Taylor said.
Taylor and de Guzman said the contribution of the Philippines to greenhouse gas (GHG) is still insignificant at 0.5 percent compared to the global GHG total. But they cautioned, “This doesn’t mean that we are not contributing to climate change.”
Studies show that a 100 MW coal plant emits an estimated 25 pounds of mercury a year and only 0.002 pounds of accumulated mercury is needed to contaminate a 10-hectare lake.
Taylor explained that the single reason why the government and power corporations are pushing for coal is that it is the cheapest source of energy.
“It only looks cheaper in the short term but the effects to the people and the environment will be much more costly in time,” he confirmed.
Earthlife and PMCJ share the same message: Use the already operating coal plants out there but do not add anymore.
They said that it would be difficult to shut down these power plants because it would result in huge energy crisis and chaos.
Taylor said that “20 to 40 years of dependency on coal will cause warming up to 5 degrees, there is no place for us in 5 degrees.”
He said he does not recommend the Philippines to be like South Africa in terms of coal reliance and that they will push the United Nations’ clean air resolutions up to the last option.
He said that the only way out of global warming is to “move away from coal.”