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New Negros Occidental Governor puts SMC coal plant on hold

Bishop, groups urge SMC to REthink energy plan for island, country

By Power for People Coalition
June 29, 2019

QUEZON CITY – After incoming Governor Bong Lacson put discussions on hold for the proposed coal-fired power plant in San Carlos, Negros Occidental in a statement yesterday, leaders of the anti-coal movement urged San Miguel Corporation (SMC) to rethink its energy strategy in the province and in the country.

“We are glad that the Governor is putting talks of coal on hold and is prioritizing the maximization of renewable energy in our beloved province,” said Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos. “We hope that this is a first step for him towards acknowledging that there is no room for coal in San Carlos and no room for it in Negros.”

The anti-coal groups in the province carried on with their planned gathering in the inauguration of Gov. Lacson to reiterate their calls to reject coal, uphold the coal-free Executive Order, and pass the proposed Renewable Energy Ordinance from the last administration.

Bishop Alminaza urged SMC to back down on its proposed project and instead invest in projects that would unite and not divide the people of the province. “We share the passion of all Negrosanons for growth and prosperity in our province, but we will not cease in viewing the continued use of dirty energy as an issue of morals and justice,” he said.

The Bishop reiterated that a country among the most threatened in the world by the climate crisis should not itself contribute to the problem. “It is the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor that we refrain from so-called development projects that will not only harm our health and environment, but further decrease the capacity of the impoverished to survive and thrive in this worsening climate.”

“The costs and risks attached to existing coal projects of SMC in other parts of the country is among the many reasons why there is a growing and overwhelming opposition to the projects they are proposing,” said Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances. “In the past two years, the company has suffered a bad reputation in the handling of its coal assets.”

Arances recounted how last 2017, health and environmental problems were seen in the waste disposal system of its coal plant in Limay, Bataan. “And just this year, the underperformance and emergency maintenance shutdowns of its coal plants in Calaca, Batangas and Masinloc, Zambales caused electricity hikes which consumers had to pay for.”

Arances encouraged the company to double down and scale up its plan to set up 1,200 MW of renewable energy in five years. “Not only will SMC get the chance to reinvent itself as a leader in clean energy, it will also send good signals to consumers and communities who have long suffered from their dirty and costly investments,” he concluded.

Anti-coal groups to press on to stop SMC plant

Youth and other sectoral groups gathered in the Capitol Lagoon as the inauguration was happening to remind the incoming leaders of their responsibility to the environment and the people.

“While Negros Occidental is already known across the country as its Renewable Energy Capital, we know that we still have much more to do if we seek to harness and maximize all the renewable energy sources that we have in the province,” said Coleen Awit of the Youth for Climate Hope. “Categorically abandoning coal shall also make Negros Occidental a model province not just in its pursuit of renewable energy, but also in its initiatives for climate action and justice.”

Students and religious groups, as well as local contingents of national organizations Bukluran ng Manggagwang Pilipino, Sanlakas, Murang Kuryente, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice also mobilized during the gathering.

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