Activists call on San Miguel Corp. to drop coal plants, shift to renewable energy

San Miguel

Coal-affected communities and civil society organizations yesterday called on San Miguel Corporation to shift to renewable energy and halt the operations of its coal plants in Limay, Bataan, which allegedly caused skin and respiratory diseases for nearby residents.

The protest, which is a part of Break Free 2017, is part of a series of peaceful community mobilizations across the country. Break Free is a part of the global action against fossil fuels.

“Rich fossil fuel companies like SMC surely have the wherewithal to understand why coal is bad for the planet and for local communities. But these companies choose to pursue profits from fossil fuels instead of truly caring about people’s lives,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Saño said.

“The Bataan community’s struggle symbolizes the global movement of frontline communities and climate impact survivors standing together and resisting greed, to take back their rights to a healthy environment and a viable future,” Saño added.

Early this year, residents clamored for the closure of San Miguel Corporation’s subsidiaries’ plants in Bataan, particularly SMC Consolidated Power Corporation’s 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant and Petron Bataan Fuel Refinery’s 140-megawatt plant.

Ash fall from the plants allegedly caused health problems to nearby residents, but SMC denied responsibility, claiming their ash ponds were within their facilities and could not have contaminated the air and water around the plants’ nearby communities.

“SMC’s coal plants continue to operate, even after they have committed serious violations that harmed the environment and the community. This shows that not only are they bad business implementers, but also human rights violators. They need to be held accountable for the damage they’ve caused,” Coal-Free Bataan Movement coordinator Derek Cabe said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources last month cleared SMC and allowed the company to transport its bottom ash to its cement plant.

Read: DENR clears Bataan plants of air, water contamination

A Greenpeace report last year said coal-fired power plants have dangerous effects on the human health. It cited a research conducted by Harvard University, which showed over 2,000 premature deaths in the country such as stroke, ischemic heart disease, other cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases are caused by coal-related pollution.

“SMC shouldn’t continue to tarnish the goodwill its corporate hands built over the years by insisting on an energy source like coal, that’s been proven and verified to be harmful,” Health Care Without Harm’s Paeng Lopez said.

“We demand that DENR immediately issue an order to stop the operation of the coal plants, and for SMC to seriously address the grievances of the communities, including providing a proper relocation area for them. We also demand that the government include the 2 coal plants in the first 50 ECCs to audit, call for the review of the prevailing standards used by DENR in monitoring waste and emissions, and classify coal ash as hazardous,” Philippine Movement for Climate Justice coordinator Valentino De Guzman said.

During the protest yesterday, activists staged a live diorama with people chained to a “coal demon,” meant to signify how the fossil fuel industry controls economy, politics and people’s lives in favor of profits.

Organizations who joined the protest yesterday include the Green Thumb Coalition, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Freedom from Debt Coalition, The Climate Reality Project,, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines), Health Care Without Harm, Coal Free Bataan Movement, SANLAKAS, Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), Dakila, and Greenpeace Southeast Asia.