Over my dead sexy body

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By Jennifer L. Ramos

Obiter Dictum

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

WALANG basagan ng trip, as people would say. And this is actually about coal-fired power plants so claiming to have a sexy body that has its redeeming value, or so I hope.

I was in Cagayan de Oro, last week, as one of the speakers for a Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Training. We thought of organizing a press conference to put the spotlight on the People’s Survival Fund, which, by law, has a budget of P1 billion annually since 2012. It’s for Local Government Units, academe, scientists, and, yes, non-government organizations for climate change adaptation activities, capacity building, buying forecasting and early warning devices, monitoring vector-borne diseases, and similar activities that would somehow mitigate Yolanda-like catastrophes.

I was frothing in the mouth telling press people that two years after the law was passed, and after Typhoons Pablo and Yolanda, no one has been able to make use of the fund. The last time I inquired from the Climate Change Office, they said, the mechanism to access it has not been signed, and the People’s Survival Fund Board that’s suppose to manage it has not even been convened. What a shame.

And so I was on hyper mode, trying hard to capture the fleeting interest of the media on the issue, so it would reach the ears of the powers-that-be and move them to sign the mechanism and convene the Board. Halfway into the press con, I knew I was failing miserably. I stepped down from the panel feeling dejected, but only for a moment, because reporters immediately swarmed me (Okay, there were just three, actually). Nabuhayan na naman ako ng loob!

But I was wrong. They asked me about coal-fired power plants, which painfully reminded me of an unfulfilled promise I made in my place of birth: A coal-fired power plant in Davao City will only happen over my dead and sexy body!

Apparently, coal-fired power plants are attracting media attention in Cagayan de Oro right now. There’s STEAG, and, soon, more coal plants from FDC Misamis Power Corporation’s and Mindanao Energy Systems—all in Misamis Oriental. Church groups and environmental are up in arms.

One reporter told me health workers are now validating complaints that respiratory diseases among residents living in communities near STEAG are increasing. Residents are also complaining that clothes hung out to dry in open air get speckled with dirt from the plant. Is this really the same coal-fired power plant that our Davao City Councilors visited in 2011? They came back with glowing reports that communities aren’t complaining of any sickness and the smokestacks aren’t spewing dark, evil smoke. Consequently, the Councilors endorsed the coal plant in the very City dreaded by smokers for its comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance. How ironic.

I was asked whether there’s a law banning coal-fired power plants. I wish.

But in the US, GreenLaw and Sierra Club prevented Longleaf Energy Station from constructing its 1200 MW coal-fired power plant on the ground of particulate matter pollution that causes respiratory problems, heart attacks and premature deaths. The environmentalists won some but lost more battles in the cases that ensued. But eventually won the war in 2011 when Longleaf gave up and cancelled its coal-fired power plant.

In Ontario, Canada, they are retiring all their coal plants by 2014. This year, 17 out of 19 coal plants had already been shut down. And closer to home, in Subic, the Court of Appeals invalidated RP Energy’s Environmental Compliance Certificate.

All is not lost. There’s hope for this sexy body.

[Email: suijeneris@gmail.com]

(Atty. Jennifer L. Ramos provides legal services and advice on environmental issues to government agencies and local government units. She conducts training on environmental laws, climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction and management.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 11, 2013.


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