ILIGAN CITY -- Inspired by the recent decision of leaders of major industrial countries regarding cutbacks in the use of fossil fuels, a local environmental group called on government to rethink its energy policy that led to the mushrooming of coal-fired power plant projects in Mindanao.

"It is ironic that while the great industrial powers are phasing out fossil fuels from their economy, the Philippines is building coal-fired thermal plants which are the leading producers of carbon dioxide," said Regina S. Antequisa, executive director of nongovernment group Ecosystem Work for Essential Benefits (EcoWEB).

Antequisa noted that in the Panguil Bay sub-region alone, three coal-fired power plants are set to rise. These are in Iligan and Ozamiz cities, and in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. All these lie within a distance of 60 kilometers, the shortest being Kauswagan town and Iligan city at 20 kilometers.

"These plants are potential carbon emitters and they are to be built in one bay region. These could have significant impact to the quality of air, seawater and agricultural land in the region," Antequisa said.

Last week, a group of farmers and fishers in Lanao del Norte staged a three-day “Walk for the Climate” beginning in the province’s southern tip toward Iligan City to dramatize their opposition to the coal-fired power plant projects, and warning of dire consequences these will have on their livelihoods.

The planned power generation facility in Iligan will have a 20-megawatt (MW) capacity, largely for use by a cement factory and other industrial plants in the area. That in Kauswagan, owned by Ayala Power, is a 540-MW facility while that in Ozamiz is 300 MW.

Construction for the Kauswagan project is already underway.

These three power generation capacities are the latest wave of large-scale coal-fueled capacities to be built in Mindanao. Construction of similar projects is also underway in Davao City and in Sarangani.

While the dirtiest source of energy, coal is also the cheapest, hence, its wide use especially in developing economies.

“There are other potential energy sources in the region, especially renewable ones. These must be exhausted before looking into non-renewables. If this is how we pursue energy policymaking, we can never wean our economies away from dirty energy,” Antequisa said.

In a declaration issued on Monday, EcoWEB lauded the commitment of the seven industrialized nations.

"If the G7 countries commit to save our planet, we should also commit to do our part at the local level. We could do it in our homes, communities, and in the streets, when needed," the EcoWEB declaration read.

"It is still a promise but that's a welcome development for a world threatened by the devastating impact of climate change-induced disasters," said lawyer Romero Pacilan, EcoWEB chair.

EcoWEB has been working on projects that address climate change, both in the short and longer term, in partnership with grassroots communities in Mindanao, and recently, in the Visayas.

G7 example

On Monday, leaders of the G7, a grouping of the world's major industrial democracies, agreed on steps to wean their economies from carbon-based energy, seen as a major step in the fight against global warming.

"We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term, including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050," the G7 leaders’ communiqué read.

Green groups have welcomed the recent commitment of the G7 leaders with Greenpeace saying in a statement that "the vision of a 100 percent renewable energy future is starting to take shape."

Among others, the G7 leaders supported a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions set by a United Nations climate change panel, and a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial levels.

At present, the world burns eight billion tons of coal annually to provide for 40 percent of its electricity needs and, in the process, produce 39 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2012, the world emitted a record 34.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.