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New Greenpeace report says coal to stifle Philippine economic growth

Aquino government urged to drop plans for coal energy expansion

By GREENPEACE
May 7, 2014

MAKATI CITY, Philippines – A new Greenpeace report outlined how the Philippines stands to lose billions in economic revenue and incur even more unforeseen human and environmental costs if the Aquino government continues to promote dirty coal energy even in this age of accelerated climate change.

Greenpeace’s True Cost of Coal Volume 1 is an overview of how coal has forever disadvantaged the Philippines in terms of environmental and health impacts, damages to agriculture and marine life and more. The report also exposed how government officials and key players in the Energy sector continue to mislead the public claiming how coal investments will propel the nation to a more energy secure future, when in fact worldwide, coal is destroying lands and livelihood and endangering people’s health and well-being in the name of development.

“Our leaders have always envisioned a green and prosperous Philippines and yet, by promoting dirty coal projects, they are burning our chances of a more sustainable economic development. What’s more, they are asking Filipinos to pay dearly for a future marked by more deadly and extreme weather events aggravated by the burning of fossil fuels like coal,” said Reuben Andrew Muni, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “This report should make President Aquino and his energy officials to re-think about approving more coal-fired plants, aside from the 45 plants currently in the pipeline.”

Coal is a highly polluting energy source and emits much more carbon per unit of energy than oil and natural gas. From mine to sky, from extraction to combustion, coal pollutes every step of the way. The huge environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it an expensive option for developing countries. More importantly, coal promoters continually overlook the increasingly urgent need to curtail fossil fuels use due to climate change.

The first of three parts, True Cost of Coal Volume 1 focused on the external costs of coal energy production in the Philippines – from mining to importation. Research has shown that coal is not as cheap as its promoters have claimed it to be.

A typical new 600-MW coal plant has price tag of roughly USD 2 billion. Furthermore, the Philippines is hostage to international fossil fuel markets for the cost of fuel which can be up to 70% of the total generation cost passed on to the consumers by the government and the power utilities sector.

Another point to consider is the fact that more than 34% of the Philippine’s power generation comes from imported coal from Indonesia. This demand for coal locks the country into a problematic paradigm, where it relies on a resource (coal) that it cannot produce domestically and must therefore import.

“By constantly spending money to acquire foreign coal, the Philippines is unnecessarily squandering its foreign currency, sending it abroad, which negatively affects its balance of trade, as well as its energy independence, said Amalie Obusan, Regional Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Compare this with Renewable Energy which is clean and naturally abundant in the Philippines. While the price of coal rises, the price of wind and sun doesn’t change, it is always free.”

According to the Department of Energy, geothermal energy alone has already had a massive impact on foreign exchange over time, through displacement of imported fuels. The Philippines has in fact saved about USD 7,074,870,000 billion since 1997.

The Greenpeace report also gave key insights on how coal powered plants operating in the country have endangered coal-affected communities and the natural environment [3]. Laws and other policy instruments that were blatantly disregarded both by coal companies and the government were also made known in the report.

Greenpeace laments the Aquino government’s clear bias for coal and its mere token of support for RE. While there is a slow push for the implementation of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the DOE is swift to defend and promote coal as the primary source of electricity in the country.

“Coal is not cheap and the human and environmental costs of dirty energy are just too high to ignore. We cannot allow the status quo to continue,” added Muni. “The goal of inclusive economic growth need not be in sharp contradiction with the goal of environmental protection and conservation. Clean and renewable energy is possible. We must use it to our advantage and end the age of coal.”