Ateneo de Davao pushes climate change awareness, but dean okays coal energy

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December 02 2013

by EARL O. CONDEZA
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) is planning a climate change awareness campaign among vulnerable sectors in the city, but a dean’s stand on the coal-fired power plant, a top cause of climate change, is questioned by an environment group.

Maria Lourdesita Chan, chair of the University Research Council, said in a press conference early this week, the AdDU campaign on climate change awareness was prompted by lessons from Typhoon Pablo that struck Davao Region last year and the recent Typhoon Yolanda that leveled Eastern Visayas.

She said this campaign is designed to raise understanding on climate change and disaster preparedness among communities in the city that are most vulnerable to typhoons, floods and other disasters, through its students who will be sent to vulnerable communities.

Part of its project, Chan said, is a proposed production of a disaster survival kit which consists of a solar lamp, solar charger for mobile phones, designed to sustain people for 72 hours. It also includes a water purifier and energy food processor.

Chan said they asked the City Council to support the production of this kit, which the council said will be sourced from public-private partnership (PPP).

While this campaign points out coal energy as a major threat to climate and the abrupt change in weather, the university’s Dean of Arts and Sciences and astrophysicist, Fr. Daniel Mc Namara, however, considers coal-fired power plant “okay” for the “short term” to meet the city’s power demand.

“Coal is not the greatest answer but maybe in a short term, it has to be. If the plant is ready for replacement, let’s say 10 to 15 years from now, (we’ll replace) it with other renewable energy, whatever it is going to be,” he said.

Mc Namara said that considering the country has the highest energy cost in Asia, coal could provide cheaper costs than other renewable energy sources.

“We know that the Philippines has the highest energy cost (in Asia). (Coal) is much cheaper than solar (energy) and other renewable energy sources,” he said.

But Doctor Jean Lindo, spokesperson of the Network Opposed to Coal (NO TO COAL) said coal energy is not cheap in the long term with its effect on people’s health.

“Coal-fired power plants maybe cheap, but its effect to health, and economic needs of the people around the plant will be affected. Health problems that we could have for its 10 to 15 years of operation is not cheap.”

“And besides, no coal-fired power plant will operate for just a decade,” she added.

Lindo also said social costs such as livelihood of communities occupied by the plant will be affected.

“Although (the plant) will provide jobs, people living around the plant will be relocated, their livelihood will be affected, (specially) those who are working along the shore,” she said.

The coal-fired power plant located in Toril is owned by the Aboitiz Power Corp.’s subsidiary Therma South, and is projected to operate in 2015.

The global environment group Greenpeace said “coal energy (is) the single greatest threat facing our climate” and “the biggest source of man-made CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions.”

CO2 emission, according to the group, heats up our atmosphere and affects the climate.

Lindo said “uniting and consulting people will help minimize climate change, and explore other renewable energy. It will also create more jobs, green jobs.”

Another  environment advocate, Juland Suazo of Panalipdan (Defend) Southern Mindanao, challenged AdDU to hold “grassroots-based climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.”

“For instance, how about architecture students and architects helping design typhoon-resilient houses for lumads, peasants and workers? How about engineering students or engineers helping in developing a community-based, off-the-grid renewable energy system?” he asked. (Earl O. Condeza, davaotoday.com)

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