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Coal power plants imperil human lives

01:39 AM July 27, 2015

A TRAGEDY greater than that caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” or a 7.2-magnitude earthquake is waiting to happen because the Aquino administration has opted to take the easy way and rely on coal in addressing the country’s power “needs.”

Again we must warn: Coal will kill more and more people unless we shift to sustainable renewable energy.

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But in spite of the fact that the United States and other European countries are now shutting down coal-fired power plants because of their negative effects, our Department of Energy continues to encourage investment in coal. Many international institutions (e.g., the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and personalities (like Pope Francis) have also called for a shift from coal power and fossil fuel energy sources.

According to the Clean Air Task Force, coal power plants operating in the United States, as of 2010 alone, will send an estimated 13,200 people to premature death and 9,700 to hospitals; and cause some 20,000 heart attacks—at the total cost of more than $100 billion—per year. The 2015 Coal Atlas, published by Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation, says that in Europe, more than 18,000 people die every year due to air pollution caused by coal production and coal power plants. What is even more dismaying is the fact that it is the poor and minority groups that are being hit the hardest by these external costs.

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This is why the United States and Europe are currently phasing out their coal power plants. But instead of doing the same, the DOE continues to approve coal operating contracts (COCs) and new coal power plants. To date, under the Aquino administration, a total of 59 new coal plants have been approved for construction and 118 coal mining permits have been given. Another 15 more coal power projects are in the pipeline for approval.

The effects are no longer invisible. Just recently, nine miners died due to the collapse of a mining site operated by the Semirara Mining Corp. in Caluya, Antique. Two years ago, a similar incident involving the same corporation occurred, killing at least five more miners. To add insult to injury, just months after that 2013 incident, Semirara began the expansion of its coal plant in Batangas. Residents near coal power plants also face ill health effects such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and even loss of intellectual capacity due to mercury ingestion, this according to a report from Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The government can no longer turn a blind eye to these mishaps. To play ignorant would be an insult to the Filipino people seeking justice and

accountability from these exploitative corporations.

Filipinos shouldn’t have to pay the price for corporate greed, not with their money and, certainly, not with their lives. It is time to reject the construction of new coal plants, start decommissioning old ones, and shift to more sustainable and renewable forms of energy.

We enjoin everyone to join the “1 Million Signature Campaign” which concretizes our unyielding stand against coal investment and coal projects and which we intend to

submit on Nov. 10.

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—GERRY ARANCES, national coordinator, LIDY NACPIL, national convenor, AARON PEDROSA, energy working group head, Philippine Movement for Climate Change; GINA LOPEZ and EDWARD HAGEDORN, environmentalists

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