THE Philippines, being a country more susceptible to the effects of climate change, is being urged by various sectors to adapt to the use of renewable energy (RE), instead of coal, as main source of energy.
Based on a 2015 report by Greenpeace, titled Coal: A Public Health Crisis, the Philippines is most vulnerable to health risks associated with its use of coal for power source.
“The Philippines, which ranked first in the world for countries most affected by climate change in 2013, is particularly vulnerable to the health risks posed by coal use,” the report said.
A case study conducted by Health Care Without Harm Inc. Asia (HCWH) revealed that coal-related deaths in the Visayas region may reach up to 650, from the current 240 annually should the country continue to rely on coal-fired power plants.
HCWH’s Raphael Lopez said in a forum mid-September that the group’s second case study confirmed premature deaths were attributed to operating coal-fired power plants. Lopez, HCWH coordinator for health-energy initiatives, added that “the projected premature deaths from the combined emissions of existing and new plants” were also confirmed by the study.
DESPITE the health risks, the Philippines still continues to be dependent on coal, according to Greenpeace.
“More than one-third of the energy used to generate electricity in the Philippines comes from burning coal, and several new coal plants are expected to start commercial operations by 2020,” the environmental activists’ group said. “The Department of Energy [DOE] continues to award new coal operating contracts [COCs] for exploration, with at least 39 new COCs awarded in 2015 alone.”
Lopez explained that, if the government is considering the health of the public, it should shift from the use of coal-fired power plants as energy sources and turn to the renewable ones instead. “It is, therefore, recommended that the government phases out of coal and fully embrace renewable-energy sources in the Philippines based on public-health considerations.”
LAST Friday anti-coal activists, in protest over the plan to build the Atimonan coal-fired power plant in Quezon province, held a rally at the offices of multinational bank JP Morgan Chase in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
The Atimonan coal-fired power plant is one of 36 new coal plants, which is expected to be built by the private sector, according to the August data from the DOE. The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) said a dozen of these plants are “committed” or have established firm financing while 24 are “indicative” or are in the process of securing regulatory permits and financial closing.
“Despite criticism, the Duterte administration has increased the share of coal in the country’s energy mix,” the FDC said in a statement.
The total project cost of the 1,200-megawatt Atimonan coal-fired power plant is at P135 billion, most of the project funding is to be borrowed by Meralco PowerGen Corp., the power-generation arm of Manila Electric Co., the country’s largest distribution utility. They are targeting local and foreign banks, including JP Morgan Chase, the FDC said.
CITING a Rainforest Action Network report, the FDC said JP Morgan Chase ranked third globally in the list of 37 international banks that financed extreme fossil-fuel activities from 2014 to 2016.
Chuck Baclagon of international environment organization 350.org said, “JP Morgan Chase has a track record of financing of the most carbon-intensive, financially risky and environmentally destructive sectors of the fossil-fuel industry: extreme oil [tar sands, Arctic and ultra-deepwater oil], coal mining, coal power and liquefied natural gas [LNG] export”.
From 2014 to 2016, JP Morgan poured $20.035 billion in the financing of extreme fossil fuels, trailing the Bank of China and the China Construction Bank with $22.097 billion and $21.051 billion, respectively, Baclagon added.
“Banks and financial institutions must stop financing coal and fossil fuels if we are to keep global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius, which is the safest level still possible and is also the goal of the Paris climate agreement.”
IAN Rivera, coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), considers coal as the dirtiest fossil fuel.
Rivera linked fossil-fuel use to global warming and also to supertyphoons. He asserted that the “impact of coal-fired power plants on air and water pollution, as well as its effects on the health of surrounding communities, is highly documented”.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Ben Muni, meanwhile, said, “Investing in coal poses a huge reputational risk for banks and investors as people are realizing the world over that it is one of the biggest contributor to climate change.”
“Not only that, it is also an investment risk,” Muni said. “Coal phaseout is taking off globally and we will fight for it to speed up in the Philippines. Therefore, coal infrastructure will soon become stranded assets.” He added that coal is not cheap.
“[Coal] exacts a huge cost in terms of the lives and livelihoods of people and communities.” To be continued
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