Dirty Duterte admin: More coal energy than ever

by IBON Media & Communications

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte called on all signatories of the Paris Agreement to do their part in reducing carbon emissions. He said that he will consider declaring a “climate emergency” because mitigating the effects of climate change is a priority. Meanwhile, Congress is deliberating on a higher proposed budget for renewable energy.

This is a seeming turnaround from the president’s 2016 declaration that the Philippines will not honor commitments under the Paris climate change deal. But maybe not – the country’s increasing reliance on coal betrays the Duterte administration’s green turn as mere posturing. The government is maintaining the country’s high dependence on coal. This puts into doubt whether it is genuinely concerned about the Philippine environment and declaring a climate emergency. A higher proposed budget for renewable energy also does not necessarily indicate seriousness towards greener energy.

Using more coal than ever

A real shift to renewable energy will help the country phase out of relying on coal and fossil fuels. But the heavy and mounting use of coal shows that the government is not really keen on this. The highly privatized power sector is predictably choosing to source energy where it is most profitable for it.

Energy supply in the Philippines is still primarily sourced from fossil fuels. Non-renewable oil and coal made up 61% of energy sources in 2018, while the rest were renewable sources including geothermal and biomass. Oil is largely used for transportation and commercial purposes. The industry and electricity sectors meanwhile rely heavily on coal which takes up 32% and 31.5% of 2018 energy consumption, respectively.

The government is increasingly reliant on coal for power generation. Department of Energy (DOE) data shows that, under the Duterte administration, power generated from coal rose from 43,303 gigawatt hours (Gwh) in 2016 to 57,890 Gwh which is over half of total power generated (106,041 Gwh) in 2019. Only 22,044 Gwh of power was generated from renewable energy.

In its study “The State of the Philippine Environment”, IBON noted that 11 of the 49 committed power projects across the country are coal-fired power plants and account for 78% of the projects’ combined rated capacity of 6,280 megawatts (MW). Out of 345 indicative power projects, 18 are coal-fired accounting for 28% of the rated capacity.

The Philippines is also increasing coal imports. Imported coal made up 13.1% of the primary energy supply mix in 2016, 15.8% in 2017, and 17% in 2018; the share of indigenous coal as well as renewable energy correspondingly decreased . Coal self-sufficiency fell from 45.2% to 37.9% over the same period.

IBON also stressed that coal is cheap but hazardous to the environment and the people. Yet, the country continues to receive imported fossil fuels, technology, and foreign investment. Some of these have been rejected or banned in their countries of origin due to environmental concerns. As a result, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Philippines increased by 425% annually from 1990 to 2016, mostly coming from power generation. Coal was responsible for half of the GHG emissions.

Serious about renewables?

Clearly, getting rid of the Philippines’ coal dependence will be a concrete step towards embracing sustainable energy. Environment-friendly sourcing of energy is possible through community-based, people-determined solar, air and water energy generators.

In the proposed 2021 budget for the DOE, the Renewable Energy Development Program gets a higher allocation at Php117.9 million from Php112.5 million last year. However, Philippine governments’ push for renewable energy – specifically geothermal, biomass, hydropower and biofuels, can actually harm the environment, IBON’s study bares.

The construction of geothermal plants destroys forest cover and disturbs the natural habitat. For example, in the Southern Negros geothermal area, trees near the well sites shed their leaves due to emissions of sulfur oxide.

Hydropower generation through large dams is meanwhile pursued to attract foreign direct investments. However, the large impounding areas common with such projects submerge the lands where they are built, disrupt the natural ecology of river systems, and displaces communities in inundated areas. They also cause sedimentation which eventually weakens power and water generation capacity.

The construction of the Kaliwa and Laiban dams, for instance, will displace over 6,000 households and flood barangays in Tanay, Rizal and General Nakar, Quezon, mainly where the Dumagat and Remontado indigenous people live. Agricultural, forest, and wildlife areas inside the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve will also be flooded.

The Biofuels Act of 2007 aims to encourage investment in locally produced biofuels. This however diverts attention and scarce resources from food production and supply. Biofuel farms also usually involve the use of large amounts of fresh water, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and fossil fuel, in agrichemical monocropping.

If the government is sincere about declaring a “climate emergency” and protecting the Philippine environment, it needs to give more value to the environment and to people’s needs over the profits of energy businesses. If it does so, then it can pursue more sustainable options in sourcing and distributing energy across residential, commercial and industrial sectors. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Groups deny benefits from coal plants


BAGUIO CITY — Environmental groups in Ilocos rebuked the claims of economic benefits by coal-fired power plant proponents. The Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) and Save Sual Movement (SSM), in a separate statement, argued that health and environmental cost out weights the promise of jobs and royalties from the coal-fired plants.

Two companies are set to build to coal-fired power plant in the region. The P80-Billion 670 megawatt twin-plant of Global Luzon Energy Development Corporation (GLEDC) in Luna, La Union and the P47-Billion 1,000 MW plant of South Korean energy giant Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Both organizations believe that residents, and the neighboring towns will be at the losing end of these projects.

Temporary benefits

Rosanna Marie Soriano, president of SSM said that KEPCO only presented “half truth” about its projects impact when it announced that it will create 5000 jobs during construction and collect about P800 million in real-property tax annually.

Her group explained that while the construction of the plant will require a considerable number of labor force, it will eventually “trim down to a few hundred skilled worker and office personnel.”

The same tactic was utilized by GLEDC and Mayor Vic Marron of Luna town. They flaunted to the media and the public the need for at least 3,000 workers and the P500-million in real property tax if the project proceeds.

For Defend Ilocos, its just routine for companies investing in coal-fired plants “to highlight the economic benefits” and “use of emission-reducing technology” but in the long term operation “this will entail heavier environmental and social cost.” The environmental network said that the plant which GLEDC and KEPCO intend to build are for big businesses and not for the local residents.

Mayor Roberto Arcinue explained that the Pangaisnan, the municipality of Sual and Barangay Baquioen will be share the revenue with each receiving 35%, 40% 25% respectively.

He also claimed in the past that revenue from the existing plant made Sual into a first class municipality. The town is the location of the 1,200 MW coal-fired plant, the country’s biggest in the country, operated by Team Energy. It started providing service in 1999 and full power capacity was delivered in 2007.

However, revenue seems to play a minimal role in the overall poverty situation in the area. In 2012, Sual ranked 8th among the municipalities generating locally sourced revenues. But she was also identified by the Provincial Poverty Reduction Action Team as one of the 10 municipalities with the highest poverty incidence.


GLEDC and KEPCO have boasted that their plant will run with the latest technology. Both local governments of Sual and Luna also claimed that the plants will be “environmentally-friendly.”

However, the groups are not convinced.

Defend Ilocos explained that “decades of utilizing coal for power generation across the globe have proven its detrimental impacts to our health and environment.” The group also pointed that “low-emission coal power facilities fail to address the overall impact of the coal industry from extraction, transport, stockpiling and waste disposal.”

It added that countries touted to have the most efficient coal fleet like Japan, China, and the United States failed to curbed the environmental and health issues associated with coal and coal-fired plants.

Soriano’s group, in its statement, mentioned a study by Dr. Romeo Quino of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in KEPCO’s 200 MW coal-powered energy facility in Naga, Cebu. The doctor was able to identify heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and arcenic in high concentrations from coal ash samples taken from the area. Residents in the place complained of of air, water and land pollution prompting even the Asian Development Bank, who funded the project to admit the said problems.

“Humihingi kami noon ng report mula sa LGU at sa planta kaugnay sa epekto nito sa environment pero wala naman silang ibinigay sa amin,” Soriano said. To bolster their proof, SMM will undertake water and air testing on March 31 to April 2 in the vicinity of the existing plant.

An independent consultant and researcher, Dr. Freddie Obligacion, in his published study in 2015 of 410 households from four major coal-powered plants found that “major coal-fueled plants in the country have adversely impacted our fellow citizens’ environment, health, livelihood, and life satisfaction.”

Health was the major impact area cited in the study. According to the document, fewer illness were experienced by the residents prior to the operation of the facilities. However, after the plants started operation, reports of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, skin allergies, infections, headaches and diarrhea became common. Of the respondents who encountered these diseases, 69% attributed it to the presence of the coal-fired power plant in their community.

No direct consumption

“Wala namang isang bahay dito na directly sa coal plant kumukuha ng kuryente, huwag niya (Arcinue) sabihin na kami ang pangunahing nakikinabang dahil dumadaan naman ito sa grid, its not only the coal plant that supplies the energy we use. Maganda sana kung diretly at libre ang kuryente pero hindi naman. Binabayaran nga namin yan. Kapag tumataas ang kuryente ay tumataas din ang sa amin kahit pa nandito ang biggest coal plant,” explianed Soriano.

The statement was her reaction to Arcinue’s foolish call to for SMM members to “refrain from using electricity produced by the power plant” to prove their sincerity in opposing KEPCO’s facility.

In 2015, Pangasinan was reported to having the highest electricity rate in Region 1 with a price tag of P17.7595 per kwh.


Soriano said that her group are experiencing harassment from the local chief executive. While she claims to have not experience direct attacks, her family and colleagues are being singled-out.

“Yung mga kasamahan ko ang nakakaranas, lalo na yung mga nasa wharf area. Palaging sumusulat ang iba’t ibang office ng munisipyo, ang MENRO, Engineering Office at sinasabing dapat umalis sila. Pero ang pinapaalis lamang ay yung mga sumasapi sa amin samaantalang mga allies nila ay hindi naman pinapaalis,” the SSM leader narrated.

She added that even her family are threatened through their businesses.

“Marami siyang (Arcinue) sinisita na kung ano-anong violations namin, na we are not in compliance of somethings, gaya ng building code,” she said.

Like Soriano and her group, members of Defend Ilocos also experience harassment. The group said that its network TIMEK La Union, a fisherfolk organization that is opposing the construction the coal-fired plant in Luna are being monitored by the local police.

“In November 2017, PNP personnel went looking for TIMEK officers and members in Agoo and Bauang, and told the barangay officials that it is a front organization of the New People’s army,” stated the group in its year-end report.

Clean development

“Everybody desires progress, but let us have it in the proper, clean, safe and sustainable way… not with coal that will endanger our lives, our family and the future generations of Sual,” noted SMM in its statement.

Defend Ilocos on the other hand is pushing for the prioritization of “ industrial and service sector investments with less ecological impacts” to create jobs. The group also said that local governtments are “better off promoting rural development by pursuing genuine agrarian reform to strengthen agriculture and the fishery sector.” #

No to Coal in Bohol

We, the Bohol Clean Energy Advocates, call on the Sanggunian Panlungsod of Tagbilaran City and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol to recognize the negative impacts of coal-based power generation and the need to shift to renewable energy sources by passing resolutions to support calls for “a moratorium on the establishment of carbon-intensive and fossil-based technologies”; and interpose its objection on any proposed coal-fired project within our province;

WE ALSO URGE on the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Energy to deny any applications for coal-fired and other fossil-based power plants within Bohol; and implement the mandate for the development and use of renewable, sustainable energy sources and technologies.

We urge the Bohol Energy Development Advisory Group (BEDAG) and the Officials of the Provincial Government of Bohol to faithfully and strongly enforce the Vision and Mission of the province as “a prime eco-cultural destination and a strong, balanced agro-industrial province, with a well-educated, God-loving and law-abiding citizenry, proud of their cultural heritage, enjoying a state of well-being and committed to sound environmental management”, through “good governance and effective partnerships with stakeholders”; as well as the declaration of our province as an Eco-Cultural Tourism Zone under Republic Act No. 9446 that mandates us to “protect and enhance the natural features and cultural heritage of the tourism zone, while providing sustainable economic opportunities for the local community”.

Why is this important?

Alarmed that there are sectors in the Provincial Government along with investors and power providers who are poised to endorse a backward idea of a coal-fired power plant in the island, we demand that our leaders to lead us in achieving Bohol’s Goals that include, among others, Environmental Protection and Management; and, Responsive, transparent and accountable governance.

Drawing from our earlier manifesto, we echo the call, this time, taking a firm stand against whatever plans and machinations there might be to utilize coal in generating power within our province. We have united behind the following arguments:

1. THAT COAL IS DIRTY AND DEADLY. Coal damages both people and planet. Existing and proposed coal power plants in the Philippines can cause up to 2,410 premature deaths annually according to a 2015 Harvard study. Coal burning emits substances which contribute to smog, haze, lung disease, and respiratory illnesses; as well as neurological and developmental damage in humans and other animals (US Energy Information Administration, 2017). Coal mining contributes to soil erosion, water pollution and loss of biodiversity. It is directly linked with climate change as it is responsible for 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, inducing natural disasters.

2. THAT COAL IS COSTLY. While there is still a popular perception that coal is sold cheaply, a research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) revealed that coal use actually brings with it additional costs that are not traditionally taken into account such as: (1) Subsidies to coal producers; (2) Air pollution estimated to cause more than 6,000 global deaths annually; and, (3) Greenhouse Gas emissions that undermine targets under the Paris Agreement on Climate. If we monetize these impacts the total cost of coal is estimated to be around USD 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), more than double the cost of competing renewable energy based on recent renewable auction results.

3. THAT GLOBALLY COAL IS NO LONGER A VIABLE OPTION. The recent falls in solar Photo Voltaic prices have led India to cancel new coal capacity, in addition to rising concern about the impacts of coal use on air pollution. In China, this concern led to a moratorium on new coal plants in 28 out of 31 provinces. With the tide turning against coal across the world, there is real concern that investments made today could soon be impossible to operate on environmental, public health and cost grounds, leaving a legacy of stranded power stations as the last monuments to the age of coal. (IISD, 2017)

WE REJECT the proposal or plan of private or government investors in establishing a coal-power plant in the province of Bohol because it is tantamount to a violation of the existing laws and commitment for the Boholano people;

WE DECLARE that renewable energy is the way forward. A 2013 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report said that in 2011, at least 384 renewable energy service contracts were awaiting approval from the Department of Energy, equalling to 6,046 MW of generation capacity. Currently, there are 13 operational coal-fired power plants with a combined installed capacity of 4.937 MW;

WE STRONGLY SUPPORT the development of renewable energy sources as the way forward for our beloved Bohol that claims to have ecological and cultural tourism as its main path for sustainable development being one of its primary economic drivers.

WE ENJOIN our fellow Boholanos and residents to join us in this worthy cause to save our environment from this threat of destruction for our sake and the future generation.

WE DEMAND as citizens and voters that the Sanggunian Panlungsod of Tagbilaran City and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol shall recognize the negative impact of coal-based power generation and the need to shift to renewable energy sources by passing Resolutions to support calls for “a moratorium on the establishment of carbon-intensive and fossil-based technologies”; and interpose its objection on any proposed coal-fired project within our province;

WE ALSO URGE on the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Energy to deny any applications for coal-fired and other fossil-based power plants within Bohol; and implement the mandate for the development and use of renewable, sustainable energy sources and technologies.