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Environmental Group Seeks Moratorium on Coal-fired Power Plants

(The Freeman) Updated September 16, 2009 12:00 AM

CEBU, Philippines - An environmental group is urging the government to issue a moratorium on coal-fired power plants, saying the proliferation of such plants pose a great risk to the environment and the health of the people.

In a statement to The Freeman, Meggie Nolasco, spokesperson of the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance, said coal has been identified as the dirtiest source of energy and a major contributor to pollution and global warming.

"The Arroyo government is a promoter of pollutive technologies and dirty source of energy in the country. It is thus alarming that majority of the power plants that are poised to be constructed in the country are coal-fired, at the same time the government is very generous in issuing coal mining permits to private corporations, " Nolasco said.

PCWA is a broad network of non-government organizations, grassroots and people's organizations and individuals aiming to examine and address the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities within the country.

Currently, the Arroyo government is pursuing nine coal-fired power plant projects, including the 200-megawatt plants in Naga and Toledo City here in Cebu.

It is also pursuing a 300-megawatt expansion plant in Pagbilao, Quezon; a 100-megawatt plant in Concepcion, Iloilo; a 165-megawatt plant in Iloilo City; a 300-megawatt expansion plant in Masinloc, Zambales; a 300-megawatt plant in Olongapo, Zambales; a 150-megawatt plant in Sultan Kudarat; and a 200-megawatt plant in Saranggani Province.

Aside from these, the government has also issued 44 coal mining contracts all over the country.

But Nolasco said such “actions” are in contrasts with the thrusts of the Arroyo administration to strongly combat climate change and develop renewable energies. She said these coal-fire power plant projects would show that Arroyo allegedly continues to prioritize the interests of foreign and private corporations.

Meanwhile, science activist Dr. Giovanni Tapang of Advocates for Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) dispelled claims that coal power plants are now packaged as clean technology.

“Contrary to many scientific studies and research, coal proponents are promising that these plants are environmentally safe and pose no dangers to public health. But the fact is, coal emits large volume of air pollution and produces toxic chemicals that can enter the environment and the food chain,” Tapang said.

Coal power plants reportedly contribute 36% of the total carbon emission of the energy industry at present. Coal importation, production and consumption reportedly reached record high during the Arroyo administration.

A study in the journal Environmental Research published in January 2007 stated that air pollution from coal-fired power station, although not exceeding local pollution standards, has a negative effect on children's lung function development.

According to the American Lung Association, 24,000 people died prematurely every year in the United States because of pollution from coal-fired power plants.– Ferliza C. Contratista/ JMO (THE FREEMAN)

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