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PH peoples’ groups to Japan: “Say Sayonara to coal”

November 16, 2017

QUEZON CITY – Environment advocates and members of people's movements marched to the Japanese Embassy to demand a stop to Japan’s Asian push for coal.

Led by Sanlakas, the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) and other groups, they denounced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's promotion of fossil fuels and so-called “clean coal” to power ASEAN nations' growing economies. According to the groups, profit-seeking Japanese coal companies are riding on the ASEAN drive to further expand its economy by peddling dirty coal-sourced power as fuel for economic growth.

According to Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) Legal Research Officer Atty. Avril De Torres, Japan has been making strides in securing and financing coal projects across Southeast Asian nations amidst the ASEAN and East Asia Summits.

De Torres cited Japanese company Marubeni Corporation’s recent concession contract with the Vietnamese government to build the new 1,200MW Nghi Son 2 coal-fired power plant in Vietnam. She also claimed that Japan is currently the biggest public financier of the Asian coal power plan – leading other major countries such as China, Korea, and Germany.

According to De Torres, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) has been making huge investments in the Asian coal expansion, financing, most recently, Vietnam’s Nghi Son 2 coal-fired power plant and Indonesia’s Cirebon 2 coal-fired power plant.

“Japan persists in its push for more coal in the region amidst peoples and civil society organizations’ plea to cease carbonization,” said Atty. De Torres.

“Vietnam and Indonesia – two of the most climate-vulnerable countries in Southeast Asia – are forced to host more Japan-backed coal. Indonesia’s Cirebon 2, for instance, has recently received Japan’s coal finance despite court revocation of its environmental permit,” added De Torres. Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa slammed Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aggressive campaign for coal, including the “clean coal” push, claiming that it is mired with lies about the true impacts of coal.

“‘Clean coal’ is an oxymoron and a dirty lie. Coal simply cannot be scrubbed clean of the long history of suffering it has caused on the people and environment,” said Sanlakas Secretary-General Aaron Pedrosa.

Pedrosa cited 960 annual premature deaths found to be due to coal emissions in the Philippines alone, along with other economic and social issues stemming from the coal industry. He claims that “clean coal” has little difference with traditional coal.

“‘Clean coal’ technologies still produce the same damaging amount of emissions and pollution. Their only difference with traditional coal is that they are more expensive for the countries that can’t afford them,” said Pedrosa.

“Far from being a tool of development, any and all coal expansion within the region ensures profit only for the few coal companies, and traps climate-vulnerable regions like Southeast Asia into further poverty and climate change-induced suffering,” he continued. According to Pedrosa, the energy demand of Southeast Asia’s economic development must not be met through the use of dirty fossil fuel energy, given the losses that coal’s environmental impacts entail.

“Whatever semblance of economic growth Southeast Asia currently enjoys will be undone by the climate change effects of continuous fossil fuel burning,” said Pedrosa.

De Torres stated that severe global warming caused by the increase in coal burning significantly affects the region whose large proportion of the population and economic activity are concentrated along the coastlines and whose livelihood depends heavily on agriculture.

“Projections of climate change-caused economic losses in Southeast Asia include a decline of up to 50 percent of rice yield potential by 2100 and a loss of 6.7 percent of combined gross domestic product (GDP) each year by 2100,” said De Torres.

Pedrosa stressed that Japan’s coal push is regressive instead of spurring genuine development. “If a technologically advanced society like Japan truly cared for the development of the Southeast Asian peoples, it must divest from all support from coal and instead put its money and expertise on sustainable and accessible sources of energy like renewables,” stated Pedrosa.

De Torres highlighted renewable energy’s steady trend of decline in costs, citing it as a manifestation of renewables’ increasing viability as the next energy source after an obsolete coal.

“Southeast Asia is ripe with renewable energy sources, like solar and hydro, which the most climate-vulnerable of its people have easier access to. Compared to a coal-backed economy, development that is founded on clean and sustainable energy is development that is sustainable and resilient,” said De Torres.