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Coal as ‘temporary solution’ not possible, groups say

Anti-coal groups respond to former Rep. Albee Benitez’s defense of coal

By Power for People Coalition
July 1, 2019

QUEZON CITY – Anti-coal Negrosanons criticized former Third District congressman Alfredo “Albee” Benitez’s defense of coal as a ‘temporary solution’ to energy needs in his first week as Trade and Investments Promotion consultant of Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson.

“The recent statements of the former Representative casts a shadow of doubt upon the assurance of Gov. Lacson that discussions on coal will be put on hold,” said Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos. “We hope that the Governor will honor his word and instead put his cabinet and the rest of the provincial government to responding to our energy needs apart beyond coal.”

The Bishop pointed out that plans to pass a Renewable Energy ordinance to further strengthen the development of renewable energy programs for the province was proposed as early as the RE Summit in 2017. “The concerns of the former Representative can be addressed if a policy outlining how our energy needs can be sustained by clean energy is passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” the Bishop stated.

The Bishop then urged the Governor to convene Provincial Renewable Energy Council as prescribed by the Executive Order 19-08, which Lacson upheld. “We hope to invite all stakeholders to make a paradigm shift from the outmoded baseload model of energy to a model that employs renewable energy sources and digital technology,” he continued.

“Coal-based energy, by its very nature, cannot be a ‘temporary’ solution,” said think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances. “The amount of capital needed to construct and operate a coal-fired power plant, and the amount of time needed before investors could enjoy a return of investment is among the reasons why coal contracts often span two or more decades,” said Arances.

“Energy investments on storage facilities and updating the island’s grid system, if managed and guided properly by public policy, could appease former Rep. Benitez’s concerns about renewable energy,” said Arances. “As Rep. Benitez has mentioned, many countries have already begun shifting from coal to renewable energy. The reality which must be faced is that this entails retiring and repurposing old coal-fired power plants, not constructing more of them.”

Anti-coal stalwart Dr. Romana delos Reyes of the Coal-free Negros Network stressed that there is no room for new coal projects in an ongoing ecological crisis faced and to be faced by the youth of today, their children and their grandchildren. “Coal plants are the monsters that have caused the sea level rise being experienced in various parts of the world. The ongoing melting of the Himalayan glaciers and Greenland sea ice will likely engulf large areas of lands in the entire world,” said Dr. Reyes, citing studies by international climate scientists.

“Our legacy cannot be one that does not care about the Philippine coastal communities where millions of Filipinos live,” Dr. delos Reyes continued. “We need to consider and prioritize the future of the youth over business. This entails resisting the lure of material progress to the detriment of lives, livelihood and a livable future for all Negrosanon youth,” she concluded.

"We are surprised that such a statement would come so close after the successful youth-led action last Saturday, which prompted a commitment from Gov. Lacson to put on hold talks on coal," said Coleen Awit of Youth for Climate Hope. "I hope that former Rep. Benitez could instead help bring in investments for clean energy infrastructure instead of re-introducing coal into the discussion."