Alminaza: Steps in the right direction: DOE, SMC leave coal behind

Bes Chat with Bp G

IT IS a testament to God's grace and our collective acts of faith and love that in the midst of this unfortunate pandemic, good things can still happen.

Last Monday, October 26, the Department of Energy announced a "moratorium" on new coal-fired power plants. According to Secretary Alfonso Cusi, this shift in policy is in order to accommodate an expected influx of investments in the country's Renewable Energy sector. In place of coal, Secretary Cusi said that the country is now "pushing for the transition from fossil fuel-based technology utilization to cleaner energy sources to ensure more sustainable growth for the country."

This moratorium is good news to REpower Negros, as well as all of those who have been opposing dirty and destructive energy projects in the country and in our province. The issue of coal has been hotly contested in our beloved province, as the proposed 300MW coal power plant by the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has threatened not only our reputation of being the RE Capital of the Philippines, but also posed threats to our environment and the health of our communities. Thankfully, as a response to the moratorium issued by the DOE, SMC has publicly stated that they will no longer be pursuing the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

These developments are in accordance to what we have been saying all along: that there is no room for coal in our province or anywhere in the Philippines; that RE is the way forward for a cleaner, more sustainable development; and that the government can and must pave the way for companies to shift investments from dirty energy to renewables. That is why if anything must be learned from this policy shift, it is that when communities are engaged and involved in the issues that concern the common good, the powerful do not have any other choice but to listen.

This is a lesson that we need to take note of moving forward, especially as the ban on new coal projects do not mean that our environment and safety is at last safe from any destructive threat. Along with the moratorium on coal is DOE's announcement of its push for more geothermal energy, and its opening up of these projects for 100% foreign ownership through Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAAs).

Here in our province, we have seen how geothermal projects have threatened to destroy the beauty and biodiversity of our prized Mt. Kanlaon and the Northern Negros Natural Park (NNNP). While we recognize the need for alternatives to coal, we cannot simply replace one form of environmental destruction with another. Moreover, rather than relying on foreign corporations, we need to be recognizing and encouraging the capability of our own local players in utilizing and maximizing cleaner sources of energy.

It is clear now that the importance and the viability of RE can no longer be denied and ignored. That is why I am grateful that the DOE has finally heeded the voices of those rejecting coal, and hopeful that this moratorium will pave the way to maximize existing RE resources in Negros. But as we thank God for these promising developments, we must also remember our tasks as stewards of God's Creation, and keepers of our brothers and sisters. My hope is that with the same vigilance and involvement that we have shown in resisting coal, we will remain engaged and informed in safeguarding the ecology of our beloved island, and ensuring that our natural resources will serve the interests of the people -- especially the vulnerable -- and not just the privileged few.

What Pope Francis said in Laudato Si is true: "Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home." These words have never been truer than these previous days. And these little victories, these significant steps in the right direction, give us hope that there are still good things to come. I am excited for what the future holds, and inspired that we will realize them together.


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