In defense of life and environment, hundreds protest coal-fired power plant in Sarangani

By
January 29 2013

The plant is built in a 55-hectare area along the coast of Sitio Tampuan which is close to the 140-hectare Kamanga Marine Protected Area (MPA).

By IRENE V. DAGUDOG & MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Almost a thousand registered their protest against the construction of the 210-Megawatt coal-fired power plant owned by the Alcantaras in Sarangani province, Soccsksargen region as the first phase of the construction started Monday, January 29 in Maasim town.

“We are the host community of this coal plant.  It will be slowly killing our communities because of its ill effects and carbon emissions causing climate change,” said Sister Pat Villagonzalo of the Maasim Tri-people Coalition Against Climate Change (M3PC), in a text to davaotoday.com.

On January 28, about 700 youth and students, women, Christians, lumads and the Moro people trooped from the Maasim Municipal Hall to the Sarangani Energy Corporation in Kamanga village, as they resisted the project in defense of their lives and the environment.

The M3PC, Bayan Muna Partylist, Social Action Center-Diocese of Marbel and Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) joined the protest.

“The coal-fired power plant would exacerbate climate change and it would endanger the Kamanga reef, a protected sanctuary,” said priest Rey Ondap, in a text.

The plant is built in a 55-hectare area along the coast of Sitio Tampuan which is close to the 140-hectare Kamanga Marine Protected Area (MPA).

The Kamanga MPA was established in 2006 under Municipal Ordinance No. 06-020, which made it a marine eco-tourism park and sanctuary.  It is home to species like the napoleon wrasse, eagle ray, jacks, unicorn fish, trigger fish, large schools of butterfly fish, sweetlips, snapper, turtle, barracuda, dugong bumpheads and spadefish as well as pristine fans and corals.  It is also home to many endangered species like the green turtle, hawksbill turtle, dugong and napoleon wrasse.

“Environmental destruction is a sin against nature and it would greatly affect the people’s health,” Ondap said.

According to Greenpeace International, “apart from climate change, coal also causes irreparable damage to the environment, people’s health and communities around the world.”

The coal plant will supposedly ease Mindanao’s “power crisis” and provide a “reliable source of energy.”

But Fr. Apollo Salazar of the IFI rebutted this, saying, “It’s a dirty plant to provide energy.”

Greenpeace said coal fired power plants are the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions.  “This makes coal energy the single greatest threat facing our climate,” it said in its website.  It also said that a third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal.  It is used to produce nearly 40 percent of the world’s power.

“There are many ways to provide energy that is environment-friendly and that will not worsen global warming,” Salazar said.

Ondap said that energies from water, waves, wind and sun could be used instead from coal.

“There are many potential renewable source of which the government fails to develop.  It is precisely because Aquino government is exceedingly subservient to the imposition of International Monetary Fund-World Bank to privatize the power sector,” said Ryan Lariba, spokesman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Soccsksargen.

In December 2012, the Alcantara Group’s Sarangani Energy Corporation entered into a PHP 9.3 Billion loan from the BDO Universal Bank, Asia United Bank, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, United Coconut Planters Bank, Philippine Business Bank, Planters Development Bank and Robinsons Bank.

Alcantara Group’s holding company, the Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc. owns 75 percent of the Sarangani Energy while 25 percent is owned by the Toyoto Tsusho Corporation, Toyota Group’s trading company.

“We are not the ones benefitting from this dirty and deadly energy but these disastrous mining industries in nearby towns. Instead, we will be the ones who will suffer from the toxic air to due to pollution and increased rates of diseases.  It will also pollute our water and seas. I will not allow myself and our community to suffer its consequences in silence,” Villagonzalo said.

“It is essential, therefore, to block the construction of coal plant in Sarangani and protest the privatization of power industry.  We must demand for national industrialization if we are to solve effectively the power woes in the country,” Lariba concluded.  (Irene V. Dagudog & Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)

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