Quezon City, Philippines – Health Care Without Harm Asia (HCWH Asia) has recently called on the health community to help address the possible impacts of coal on Filipinos’ health by reaching out to coal-hosting areas in the country.
In a forum last March 10 entitled “The Health Impacts of Energy from Coal,” HCWH Asia gathered representatives from communities in Bataan, Batangas, Cebu, and Quezon, DOH, DENR - Environmental Management Bureau, professional health organizations, civil society organizations, and energy experts.
The forum featured energy, health, and environment experts who discussed: how the potential health impacts of coal are being monitored and addressed, what regulatory bodies are bound to do in cases of infractions, how communities can protect their environment and health, and how health professionals can support pollution affected communities.
Dr. Carissa Dioquino of the University of the Philippines Manila College of Public Health on how health professionals can be tapped to conduct health investigations regarding emissions
HIAs and the role of the health sector
“Today’s discussion has made us realize that there should be more changes in existing government policies and a need to update our national emission standards which are considered outdated compared to international standards,” explained Healthy Energy Initiative Campaigner Paeng Lopez. “A lot of times, residents also feel that they are hampered by technicalities that lead them to believe that the government is not on their side. There should be a more conscious effort by government institutions to provide clearer definitions of the guidelines they observe in a way that does not alienate people in the community.”
Nurse Nilda Silvera of the DOH shared the department's plans to revive HIAs and investing in renewables for hospitals
Early this year, the “ash spill” from San Miguel and Petron coal plants in Limay, Bataan, which affected the health of adjacent communities made it in the national news. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has since issued a show cause order on both San Miguel and Petron plants, on why they should not be closed down. The Department of Health on the other hand also assisted in conducting a preliminary fact-finding health investigation in the area. Results of both Departments’ initiatives have yet to be publicly disclosed.
Months later, residents from affected communities still complain about the continuing operations of the San Miguel coal plant, the unbearable stink it brings, its dust emissions, as well as their overall health effects.
Lopez also emphasized the need to implement health impact assessments in the country and why it is crucial for the health sector to get involved. “There are a number of projects that would have been suspended or denied of ECCs in the first place because of their health and environmental hazards but there are no health impact assessments at present to prove so. We hope this gathering has opened up an opportunity for communities to link up with the health sector, both government institutions and health professionals.”
In 2014, the Harvard University Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group conducted a Greenpeace-commissioned study of the Philippines utilizing the impact pathway approach which follows air pollution from emissions to the total health impacts on the population. The study has reported that 2,400 Filipinos will die from coal-related air pollution every year.
Renewables can lead to energy revolution
According to Engr. Obet Verzola, the country has enough renewable energy sources to meet our energy demands.
In his presentation, renewable energy expert Engr. Obet Verzola of the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technologies insisted that the country does not need to rely on fossil fuel sources to supply the country’s demand for electricity. “The country’s renewables are more than enough to provide energy in the Philippines. The energy efficiency project and the National Renewable Energy Program under the Aquino administration, if implemented as planned, would have led to a significant increase in the share of renewables in the mix of new power plants that must be planned for and built.”