Scientist activist group AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People cautioned against President Rodrigo Duterte’s eagerness in promoting coal to augment power supply instead of harnessing the rich alternative energy resources of the country. AGHAM says the President wrongly projects coal power  as a solution to the power deficiency as it has been proven to be the worst source of pollutive energy, becoming outmoded due to its adverse environmental and health impacts.

“President Duterte’s presence in the inauguration of a coal-fired power plant in Misamis is giving a wrong signal on how to develop the power industry. Coal, a non-renewable energy source, should not be promoted as the answer to the power shortages and high electricity rates that we are facing because in our experience it leaves us excessive carbon emissions, dirty air, polluted lands and rivers, and other negative impacts to the country,” said Finesa Cosico, Secretary-General of AGHAM. “The existing coal power plants, which are all controlled by private and foreign corporations, did not result to lower electricity rates but to the contrary. It also increased our energy vulnerability to outside sources as coal is 90% dependent from foreign supply,” she added.

Owned by the Gotianun-led Filinvest Development Corporation through FDC Misamis Power Corp. (FDC Misamis), the power generation facility with a 405-megawatt capacity was built to address the power deficit in Mindanao and make the hydropower-dependent region insusceptible to shortages caused by droughts.

“We reiterate that we should be wary of using pollutive energy sources such as coal as it will be deleterious for the country in the long run. We should immediately make use of our enormous indigenous and renewable energy resources, but at the same time we should not treat this shift as an end-all solution to the power crisis,” explained Cosico.

According to the group, the power deficiency and excessive electricity rates are rooted in the privatized nature of the power industry. They noted how the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, in a bid to deregulate the power generation industry by opening it to free competition, has surrendered government control over the power industry to the private and foreign corporations and has put us under the whims of private corporations that seek to make profit over providing service to the people at the expense of the health and the environment.

Despite its proven environmental impact, the proponents of the coal power plants are into greenwashing, making the public believe the myth of producing “clean coal” through the circulating fluidized bed (CBF) technology. CBF enables coal plants to burn low grade coal which is abundant in the country. However, low grade coal contains large amounts of moisture and less energy, thus, generating more pollution than foreign high grade coal. Using CFB and other ‘state-of-the-art’ machinery only means that we are strengthening our country’s reliance on foreign technology despite the unreliability of such to function as it claims,” said Cosico.

Recounting the Davao Therma South power station owned by Aboitiz Power, Cosico narrated how a coal plant in Davao which also uses CFB experienced at least 5 shutdowns since it started commercial operations last January 2016 causing region-wide blackouts in Mindanao: proof that having the latest technology does not automatically translate to a stable power supply.

“Ownership of the power generation plant, not the level of technology or the type of energy source, is the decisive factor in ensuring a stable power supply. Time and again it has been proven that the private sector cannot solve the power crisis. A privately-owned plant dependent on a pollutive energy source is a double burden for the Filipino people: a false solution to the power crisis and a threat to our environment,” said Cosico.

The group called on the Duterte administration to impose a moratorium on the construction of new coal plants and to conduct a review on the status of the existing coal plants in the country.

As staunch advocates of national industrialization, AGHAM also negated the stand of the President in championing the use of coal to power our country’s industrialization by saying that our rich natural resource base equips us with a variety of other options in terms of energy source.

“Coal is a thing of the past. Our country has many other potential sources of energy which can power our industrialization if given proper investment. We can move forward and achieve national industrialization without depending on coal but harnessing alternative sources energy to address the looming power crisis,” ended Cosico.#


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