TAGUIG - A group of coal monsters staged a takeover at the Department of Energy in Taguig City, renaming the agency the "Department of Coal Energy," and asking to see their "leader," Energy Secretary Jose Rene "COALmendras."
The "coal monsters" were Greenpeace activists, painted black to resemble coal, in a satirical protest action at the DOE. The environment group visited the government agency early Monday morning for an impromptu audience with the Energy Secretary, to demand he reverse his decisions on the 11 coal-fired power plant projects he approved since being appointed to office in 2010.
"Secretary Almendras' true colors are as black as the coal he shamelessly promotes. At the rate the Department of Energy is pushing coal power in the Philippines, we might as well call it the Department of Coal Energy. Under Mr Almendras' questionable stewardship, the DOE has approved a historically unprecedented number of harmful coal-fired power plants," said Anna Abad, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
"Meanwhile, Mr Almendras has also allowed the Renewable Energy Law-designed to promote clean and safe energy alternatives to dirty coal-to languish under his watch. With his coal approvals, which directly contravene the RE Law, he has exposed himself to be an industry lackey working for coal companies rather than for the Filipino people. Greenpeace is therefore demanding that Sec Almendras immediately reverse his misguided coal approvals and vacate the office he has heartlessly betrayed," added Abad.
The environmental group Greenpeace led the action to call for the full implementation of the Renewable Energy (RE) Law. The RE Law was passed in 2008, but after four years, is still in the shelf, with decisions on provisions, such as the Feed-In-Tarrif (FIT) rates, delayed by two years.
But the biggest obstacle to the RE Law is the blatant pro-coal stance of the energy secretary. In his two years in office, Almendras has given the green light to 11 coal-fired power projects.(1) During the recent US trip of President Noynoy Aquino, Sec. Almendras also made possible two more coal-fired power projects. Greenpeace maintains that any investment in dirty coal plants means investment and opportunity lost for clean and safe RE systems.
Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel. From mining through combustion to waste disposal, coal has a dire impact on the environment, human health and the social fabric of communities living near mines, power plants and waste sites. Coal plants are among the major causes of catastrophic climate change. Coal burningalso severely damages ecosystems and contaminates water supplies. It emits other greenhouse gases like methane, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, as well as chemicals like arsenic and mercury which can disrupt human mental and physical development.(2)
Clean and long-lasting solutions to the country's energy challenges are already available, just waiting to be tapped. The DOE itself acknowledges the Philippines' vast potential for renewable power sources, such as solar and wind. Greenpeace maintains that the role of the DOE is to catalyze and develop investments in RE, in order to provide a safe, secure and independent energy future for the country.
"Secretary Almendras seems to have forgotten that he now works for the Filipino people, and not for dirty coal. His legacy of coal pollution and climate change jars with the vision of transparency and accountability carried by President Aquino. There is no place in government for industry stooges such as himself. Almendras must exit and the President must instead appoint a leader who will fulfil the vision of the RE Law and chart a sustainable energy pathway for the Filipino people," Abad said.