23 JULY 2012
A harmonized and sustainable energy policy
While we all agree that climate change is a reality, the implementation of laws, policies and programs to stem its dire effects is painfully slow.
A study undertaken by Central Visayas Farmers Development Center in the farming communities of Cebu, Bohol and Negros Oriental already showed climate change taking its alarming toll among our vulnerable agricultural sector.
The Philippines is part of the Coral Triangle, considered as the “world’s centre of marine life, with more species living in this area than anywhere else on the planet.”
“Unchecked climate change will ultimately undermine and destroy ecosystems and livelihoods in the Coral Triangle.”
Eight months after the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) was signed by President Benigno Aquino III, it remains as such: a plan, still in the realm of dreams, yet to see the implementation on a nationwide scale. The seven identified strategic priorities include food security, water efficiency, environmental and ecological stability, human security, sustainable energy, climate smart industries and services, and knowledge and capacity development of stakeholders.
NCCAP is obviously not reflected in the mindset of authorities as shown by the budget and the projects. Ironically, the coal industry in the disaster prone Philippines is having a heyday under the Aquino administration, despite the passage of R.A. No. 9593, the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 and other laws such as R.A. No. 9729, the Climate Change Act, RA 10121, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law and even by DOE’s charter, R.A. No. 7638, not to mention the Constitution. The unfathomable preference for coal, a fossil fuel, is clearly inconsistent with the public policies enunciated by said laws.
According to Greenpeace Philippines, 16 coal-fired power plant proposals had been approved since President Aquino took office in 2010. It said that “The current administration is set to build more coal plants than those built during all the previous administrations combined.”
Coal, as we all know, is the biggest source of carbon dioxide, a polluting and heat-trapping greenhouse gas that has made climate change a global security and survival issue.
The persistent bias for coal and unfortunate foot dragging in the support and implementation of the Renewable Energy Law is a black mark in the Aquino administration. While the ethical leadership of President Aquino in fighting corruption is gaining the people’s trust in the government, the coal issue will be a big headache for his administration, the investors and the citizens, as is mining.
Residents are resisting the coal power plants in their communities. They are now more aware of the hazardous impacts on their health and of the ecosystems, than they were decades ago. Stakeholders, including local government officials and residents of Subic, Zambales, Olongapo and Bataan, are strongly opposed to the construction of a 2×300 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. It is alleged that the power plant is within a protected area. Thus, a petition for writ of kalikasan was filed last week to stop the ongoing site development.
There was also news about a plan to construct another power plant in Toledo City. The investors should realize that Toledo City straddles a protected seascape, the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS). TSPS does not even have a genuine protected area management board since it was established.
President Aquino, who will deliver his State of the Nation address today, hopefully will listen to and heed the clamor of his “boss” to go for sustainable energy, as forcefully articulated in the open letter of residents and various campaigners for renewable energy (http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/ph/press/releases/SONA-2012/), portion of which reads as follows:
“When you assumed the presidency, many of us were encouraged by your promise to fully implement the Renewable Energy Act. Indeed, we were hopeful that your leadership would usher in a real transformation towards a clean energy future. Early into your term, the Department of Energy launched the National Renewable Energy Plan, supposedly the country’s roadmap to mainstream renewable energy, which in your own words shall “fuel our movement towards the rebuilding of this nation.”
Three years into your Presidency, however, the commitments you made on the renewable energy front have barely seen the light of day. Instead of realizing a surge of investments in clean, renewable energy as envisioned in the law, we have seen a resurgence of dirty, coal power plant proposals.
Under the direction of Secretary Jose Almendras, the Department of Energy has approved an unprecedented number of coal projects, at least 11 nationwide, with a combined output of 4,385 MW far exceeding the aggregate number of coal projects approved by previous administrations. While it was busy laying down the red carpet for coal, the DOE also effectively stranded the full implementation of the RE law, allowing the approval of feed-in-tariff (FIT) rates for renewable energy to drag on.
As a consequence, the Philippines’ vast RE potential of about 261,000 MW remains untapped, with investors now opting to move to other markets in the region, having been locked out by coal projects in the pipeline. For our communities who will end up hosting these plants, this means living under the shadow of life-threatening toxic emissions, destroyed livelihoods, greater water scarcity, and conflicts. For Filipinos in general, this also means greater energy insecurity and higher electricity costs in the long term given the ever-increasing price of finite coal and fossil fuel supplies globally.
Mr. President, the legacy of good government that you wish to leave behind is being tainted by the enduring pollution associated with your administration’s obvious bias for coal power. Would you rather be remembered as the President who ushered in a truly transformational Energy Revolution for the country, or the President who extinguished the promise of a clean, renewable energy future for the country? For the remainder of your term, we implore you to make the right choices now for the sake of current and future generations of Filipinos.”
Will a harmonized and sustainable energy policy remain a dream under the Aquino administration? The answer is up to us, citizens.
Read article source in Inquirer.Net