MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines Update

Published by MAC on 2006-08-18


Philippines Update

18th August 2006

As the Philippine government responds to Amnesty International's report on the political killings, an interview with the President published in the International Herald Tribune moves straight from her praising her officers' work to talking about the entry of Anglo American into the country. While no one is suggesting a direct link from Anglo American to the politically inspired assassinations, should the company continue to pursue plans in an area, notably Kalinga, where opponents to large-scale mining are being so ruthlessly eliminated? Lafayette continues to dominate the news on Philippine mining with the 30 day trial now stretching on, and Greenpeace mobilising both in cyberspace, on the streets and on the high seas to stop the project re-starting. Oxfam Australia's Mining Ombudsman also criticises the project in the Age. Elsewhere Bulatlat publishes a special focus on mining in Central Luzon (one of the worst areas currently for the political killings), and the Church once again clashes with mining companies, where a prayer rally against a mining project was forcibly dispersed, this time in Agusan del Norte in Mindanao. The people of Isabela celebrate after Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) withdraws its proposed coal mining project after a decade of struggle. Finally the British parliamentarian Clare Short visited the Philippines to investigate the problems of mining there, and has returned shocked by the extent of the problem. A report is being written on the fact-finding which should be published in September 2006.


Arroyo vows to end political deaths in the Philippines

By Donald Greenlees, International Herald Tribune

Published: 13th August 2006

CEBU CITY, Philippines - Confronting an outcry from human rights activists over hundreds of unsolved politically motivated murders and kidnappings, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines said that she would appoint a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the crimes and grant him far-reaching powers.

"He would have all the powers that can emanate from the president," Arroyo said in an extensive interview here Friday. "And, if he so agrees, we will submit to Congress a bill to give him more powers than the president" would be able "to give him."

Human rights groups and political opposition figures in the Philippines estimate that more than 700 political activists, church workers, union organizers and journalists have been murdered since 2001, the year Arroyo took office. The vast majority of these crimes remain unsolved. Human rights groups say extra-judicial killings and kidnappings are an integral part of military efforts to quash political dissent and several rebellions in the provinces, particularly by the communist New People's Army.

Arroyo tried to disarm critics in a July 24 state of the nation speech by condemning the killings "in the harshest possible terms." But her response to date has been dismissed as inadequate and ad hoc; she set up a police task force and ordered investigators to solve 10 crimes in 10 weeks.

The issue of political violence is gaining increasing international attention and has taken on special significance as Arroyo tries to turn around the image of the Philippines as a country beset by security problems. Her administration is trying to attract foreign investors willing to develop the country's extensive natural resources, much of it in regions that have long been afflicted by conflict.

In an interview while attending a conference of business leaders from Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum economies, Arroyo said she had given her police and military chiefs a clear message over the killings: "I want them solved. I want them stopped.

"We have been offering rewards, we have been offering witness protection and so I hope" that witnesses will come forward, she said. "We are strong believers in human rights in the Philippines."

But she did not reveal the precise powers that would be given to the judge she intended to appoint to carry out the investigation into the killings or who she had approached to take on the job. The appointment of a former judge, if granted sufficient powers of investigation, could give some focus and momentum to the task of solving and preventing politically motivated killings.

Arroyo, however, has to walk a fine line between ensuring justice is done and retaining the support of a military known for its adventurism. In February, Arroyo declared a weeklong state of emergency because of an alleged coup plot by leftist sympathizers in the military. Since taking office, Arroyo has rotated eight generals through the position of armed forces chief of staff.

In the interview, Arroyo praised the quality of her military commanders who, at her instructions, have been waging an intensified campaign against Communist insurgents in recent times. She also pointed to claims that "many of those killings are being attributed in fact to the communists themselves."

Amid suspicions that the security forces are to blame for extra-judicial killings, Amnesty International and other rights groups say Arroyo needs to take concrete steps to protect witnesses and ensure an end to the violence.

"Many witnesses to political killings - even close relatives of the victims - are simply too frightened to come forward," said Tim Parritt, deputy director of Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific program in a statement last month. "If the government wants witnesses to testify, it must strengthen implementation of witness protection laws. Death threats, other intimidation of witnesses and fear of reprisal are major problems contributing to repeated failures by police or prosecutors to file charges, or to trials failing to lead to the conviction of the guilty."

The debate over political violence, and the international interest it is generating, is an unwelcome distraction for Arroyo as she tries to revive private sector, particularly foreign, investment. She said that some miners, including the giant mining company Anglo-American, are stepping up plans to exploit the country's large mineral resources, which include nickel and gold. The Supreme Court has ruled that foreign investors can own 100 percent of mining projects.

Arroyo said she met executives from Anglo-American, accompanied by the British ambassador to the Philippines, to discuss Thursday a project in Mindanao, a region that has been torn by Islamic insurgency and banditry. The government is currently negotiating with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front on a lasting peace to a three- decade-old conflict.

She said these issues were not holding back the prospects for what would be a "major source of investments" in the country.

"Even in areas where the community is wary of mining investments the investors have been quite safe," she said.


By Nonoy Espina, INQ7.net - http://newsinfo.inq7.net/breakingnews/metroregions/view_article.php?article_id=14765

11th August 2006

IN a bid to prevent controversial Lafayette Mining from resuming full operations on Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay province, the international environmental group Greenpeace launched on Friday an online "virtual march" against the Australian-owned firm.

The online protest involves a cyber-petition and a "picture protest page" on which photographs of anti-mining activists holding "No" signs are posted.

Thus far, around a hundred pictures are on the page.

Environmental activists are invited to log on to www.greenpeace.org.ph and click on a banner that says, "Stop the Mine, Save our Seas."

The launch of the online protest came a day after Greenpeace activists staged a protest at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Quezon City in which they unfurled a giant banner saying "Lafayette Mining: Countdown to an Ocean's Disaster" to mark the end of the 30-day test run granted to Lafayette.

Lafayette's operations were suspended late last year after two mine tailings spills caused fish kills in the waters around Rapu-Rapu.

However, despite recommendations of a Malacañang-appointed fact finding body to cancel the firm's environmental clearance, the DENR allowed Lafayette to undertake the test run last month.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia's Beau Baconguis accused the DENR of allowing the test run to "condition people's minds to accept the eventual resumption of Lafayette's operations."

The group maintains that allowing Lafayette to operate would spell disaster for the seas of the Bicol region, which are famed as the feeding grounds of the whale shark and home to five of the seven known species of marine turtles.

It pointed to alleged incidents of fish kills in creeks around the Rapu- Rapu mine site. But Lafayette earlier dismissed these reports as "sabotage" and claimed that, in at least one incident, pesticide was deliberately poured into a creek with the intention of later blaming the firm for poisoning the waterway.

"Communities in cyberspace provide a powerful help for Greenpeace in its mission to protect the environment," the group said. "Greenpeace cyber-activists, who number in hundreds of thousands, helped foster positive changes in international regulations and forced companies to withdraw from environmentally-damaging practices."

Greenpeace hopes the cyber-protest against Lafayette will replicate the success of past online protests, the latest of which led to promises by computer maker Dell in June to remove toxic chemicals from its products and the April withdrawal of support for Japanese whaling by seafood suppliers Gorton's, Sealord and their parent company Nissui.


By Nonoy Espina, INQ7.net - http://newsinfo.inq7.net/breakingnews/nation/view_article.php?article_id=15428

15th August 2006

A SHIP of the international environmental group Greenpeace arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday to highlight the organization's campaigns to save the country's marine ecosystem, particularly polluted Manila Bay and the seas of the Bicol region.

The MY Esperanza, on its maiden voyage to the country, will also highlight a successful community-managed marine reserve on Apo Island in Negros Oriental and "promote it as a model for marine reserves worldwide," a Greenpeace statement said.

During the ship's stay, Greenpeace will campaign against plastics pollution in Manila Bay and draw attention to the damage allegedly being caused by Australian mining firm Lafayette to the marine ecosystem of the Bicol region, the statement added.

Greenpeace is protesting what it says is the imminent resumption of the mining firm's operations on Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay province. Lafayette's operations were suspended late last year after toxic mining spills that caused fish kills in surrounding seas.

"The oceans give our planet life but in return we are emptying them of fish, heating them with climate change, and filling them with toxics pollution," said Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign Director.

"In the Philippines, we find some of our important marine ecosystems suffocating from pollution from industries, sewage, and trash," he added. "Millions of Filipinos depend on these marine resources for survival, yet we are destroying them at an alarming rate."

And while noting that the government "acknowledges habitat degradation, pollution, and destructive fishing as among the most pressing threats facing the country's marine ecosystems," Hernandez said its "clear bias towards exploitation, as shown by its all-out support for destructive mining operations which impact on marine life, proves that the government itself has become part of the problem."

The Esperanza is on a global "Defending Our Oceans" expedition that Greenpeace says "started from an action packed face-off with Japanese whalers in the Southern Oceans, to chasing pirate fishers in West Africa."

The expedition aims for "the establishment of a global network of marine reserves, where 40 percent of the world's oceans are protected from exploitation," Greenpeace said.


Shanta Martin, The Age - http://www.theage.com.au/news/business/miners-must-face responsibilities/2006/08/09/1154802961862.html

10th August 2006

AT THIS week's Diggers & Dealers annual conference of the nation's leading mining companies, forum chairman Brian Hurley bashed the Government for not doing enough to rid the industry of time-consuming, resource-wasteful and downright frustrating "green tape" that hampered exploration and threatened Australia's way of life. Hurley's argument misses the point, which is that no one should have to live with a mine that causes environmental damage, in Australia or abroad, as the following case illustrates.

Villagers on Rapu-Rapu Island in the Philippines became alarmed when dead fish began appearing in their waterways. Their alarm quickly turned to fear and panic when Lafayette, an Australian Mining Company operating on the island, confirmed toxic metals from its operation had contaminated the island's rivers.

Lafayette's operation was eventually shut down after two cyanide-laden spills last year, but not before a poisonous slurry oozing into the waterways resulted in a huge number of dead fish and contaminated water, and robbed some communities of their livelihoods. Fish sales plummeted and 80 per cent of traders in the area were affected. What's more, shortly after the spills, people living within a 20-kilometre radius of the mine complained of unusual rashes and itchiness.

So, what happened at the mine to cause the spill? The Philippines Government assembled a panel of experts to investigate the disaster.

The two-month investigation concluded that Lafayette had started to extract copper and zinc without completing the construction of environmental protection measures necessary to safeguard the island's ecosystem. The commission recommended the closure of Lafayette's operations, a ban on mining in Rapu-Rapu and a review of the Philippines Mining Act, which allows for 100 per cent foreign ownership of local mines.

Australian mining companies, no matter where they operate, would do well to heed the call for them to uphold environmental and human rights standards. Failure to do so can threaten the livelihoods of local people and the environment. It can also hinder or even put a permanent end to mining operations for Australian companies - a point surely not lost on Hurley, who presumably wants to see Australian miners continue to operate to maximise profits.

Mining companies operate under a social licence. Governments allow them to operate provided they do so in ways that deliver a net benefit to the public. And, as the Lafayette case illustrates, a sure way to lose that social licence is to operate a mine using substandard means that would be unacceptable in Australia.

It only takes one shonky mining company to adopt an irresponsible approach for other Aussie companies to lose their own social licence. The best way for the mining sector as a whole to achieve profitability is to act with responsibility.

Meanwhile, the Philippines Government has thrown Lafayette a lifeline. Rather than rule out its mining operations, the Government gave Lafayette a 30-day test run to prove it could operate the mine within environmental standards.

But could it? Barely three weeks after the test run began, there was a third toxic spill at the mine, at the end of last month. Lafayette claims it was sabotage. But that's not the first time the company has cried foul. Previous spills at the mine were blamed on unidentified people. However, the independent investigation into those earlier spills condemned the company for not analysing mercury and other toxic heavy metals in the ore that it mines. So far, the mining company has been fined $265,000 for allowing toxic metals to leak into the waterways of Rapu-Rapu Island.

Australian mining companies must adhere to Australian environmental and human rights requirements when overseas. Here in Australia the public expects high standards. Do the people of Rapu-Rapu Island deserve less?

Shanta Martin is the mining ombudsman for Oxfam Australia.


By Ben Serrano, Caraga Correspondent - Sun Star Cagayan http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/cag/2006/08/14/news/cagayan.bishop.clergyman.comfort.embattled.priest.html

14th August 2006

TUBAY, Agusan del Norte -- Two Mindanao church officials said they will recommend to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and some government agencies the closure of the mining operations of the three mining firms in five coastal barangays of this coastal town.

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Cagayan de Oro Archdiocese and Monsignor Elmer Abacahin, president of the Diocesan Clergy of Mindanao, reiterated this in an interview with Sun.Star.

Ledesma, vice president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said he will personally bring the matter to the full membership of the CBCP council once it will convene to discuss their official stand on the issue.

Abacahin for his part said he will bring the matter to the 700 membership strong Association of Diocesan Clergy in Mindanao.

Abacahin, social action director of the Diocese of Cagayan in Misamis Oriental, said the group might issue condemnation of the violent dispersal of a prayer rally staged by Tubay parishioners last August 6 of which eight persons were hurt.

Ledesma and Abacahin visited beleaguered Tubay Parish Priest Fr. Jenor P. Luis at the Parish of St. Anne Church here Friday late afternoon.

The two reportedly assured the parish priest and parishioners of the Roman Catholic Church's full support of their campaign to stop what they described as "illegal and immoral" mining activities in said areas.

Abacahin and Fr. Lito Clase, director of the Diocese of Butuan-Agusan Social Action Center, with diocesan workers and officials and selected newsmen went to the coastal Barangays La Fraternidad and Binuangan to investigate.

Last August 6, a police and firemen dispersal team headed by Agusan del Norte Police Provincial Director Jerome Peralta Pagaragan and Tubay Municipal Police Chief Benny Esparagoza broke up a rally by 100 parishioners.

The rally was held at the foot of a mountain, site of an on-going nickel, copper and gold mining operations in Barangay La Fraternidad this town.

Based on police reports, no one was hurt in the dispersal as law enforcers upon written orders of Tubay, Agusan del Norte Mayor Fidel Garcia Jr. dispersed the 200 protesters who allegedly blocked a road leading to the mining site.

But medical certificates issued by private and public health authorities claimed at least eight persons including the parish priest were hurt in the dispersal.

The protestors are said to have suffered bruises and cuts as water cannons hit them and threw them off balance.

The mining activities started in the areas in April this year after the Agusan del Norte Provincial Mining Regulatory Board issued on March small-scale mining operation permits to mine gold, copper and nickel to three firms.

These are the San Roque Metals Inc. and construction firms, Galeo Equipment and San-R Constructions.

On March 2, 2006 the regional office of the Environment and Management Bureau issued an Environment Certificate Compliance approving the mining operations in the area.

This despite the areas being declared by Tubay Municipal and Provincial Governments as protected areas owing to its status as a bird sanctuary.

Local governments obtained a P15 million loan for reforestation from World Bank through Community-based Resource Management Project.


Central Luzon region is attracting mining investors, with its rich deposits of asphalt, basalt, gold, silver, copper and zinc. Indigenous peoples, however, say the mining explorations are driving them out of their ancestral lands.

BY JHONG DELA CRUZ, Bulatlat Vol. VI, No. 27 - http://www.bulatlat.com/news/6-27/6-27-mining.htm

August 13 - 19, 2006

Central Luzon is attracting mining investors with a total of 286 varied applications from local and multi-national companies pending with the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau. The region is rich with high-value minerals, including asphalt, basalt, gold, silver, copper and zinc but these however, do not benefit indigenous peoples who are being driven away by the mining ventures.

The region is composed of provinces of Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija and parts of Aurora.

"We do not need land titles," said Nelson Mallari, secretary-general of Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA), in opening the dialogue with the officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources August 3.

In the past nine years of the Republic Act 8371, known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, he said its provisions for ancestral land and domain titling has been a convenient way for big companies to grab their ancestral domains in Zambales province.

"Ang pagpapatitulo ang naging daan sa pangangamkam ng lupa at pagkakahati ng aming tribu," (Land titling has paved the way to land grabbing and division in our tribes) he said.

In Porac, the regional offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), has given way to big mining companies, he said.

Leo Jasareno, chief of Mining Tenements Management Division of MGB, said about 500 mining applications have been lodged covering explorable areas in Central Luzon.

Mallari cited developments projects being undertaken in Zambales, such as mining, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project, and various eco-tourism projects around Mt. Pinatubo have caused the Aetas to leave.

DENR Director Jeremiahs Dolino said if the indigenous tribes oppose the projects particularly mining, as in the case of Pisumpan deposit, the project would not push through.

Application under Minerals Production and Sharing Agreement (MPSA) for Pisumpan was denied by the MGB when it failed to secure a Certification of Pre-condition from the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

As of June, 286 applications are pending before MGB, while 39 have been approved and registered in Central Luzon.

At least 19, 173 has. had been approved for exploration under MPSA cover.

The biggest project approved under MPSA covers some 5,800 has. in the towns of Bagac and Mariveles in Bataan. Robust Rock Resources, operator, will yield basalt as main product.

In Candelaria and Sta. Cruz towns, in Zambales province, an area of 4,619 has. has been approved for Eramen Minerals, Inc. which will mine nickel, cobalt and chromite. A big name in mining industry, Benguet Corp., will be exploring some 1,406 has. for limestone also in Sta. Cruz.

In Tarlac province, the Rock and Ore Industries Inc. will mine limestone and shale minerals in Sta. Ignacia town, covering some 2,187 has. The Balanga Bataan Mineral Corp. also got the nod of the MGB to dig gold and copper in 1,410 has. in Bataan.

Three more projects in Zambales have applications under process with MGB. One involves chromite and ore venture by San Juanico Res. Corp. covering some 478,644 has. in Baranggay Pinagrealan in the town of Guisguis, and in the towns of Candelaria and Sta. Cruz.

Also in Zambales, in San Antonio town, Tong Tai, Corp. will explore 8,100 has. to produce serpentine. The company has been denied by local MGB but has a pending appeal. In Botolan, Cabangan and also in San Antonio, Long Fong Corp. applied for 8,100 has. for serpentine.

In San Marcelino town, Green Valley Co., will develop 4,207 has. for limestone, clay and aggregates. Sophia Mineral Corp., meanwhile, applied for 6,095 has. in San Narciso and San Marcelino towns for serpentine, gravel but filed appealed after being denied.

Meanwhile, limestone mining is abundant in Nueva Ecija, with two big exploration projects involving Royal Cement & Mining Corp., with 8,100 has. in Capotatan, Minalungan, Balukbuk, Pantay in General Tinio town; Global Ore Mineral Inc. with 7,290 has. in Bongabon town. In Lupao town and San Jose City, some 8,131 has. will be used by Mariestad Mining Corp. to mine manganese and ore.

Partial total hectares under process under MPSA, is at 747,180 has.

Applications for MPSA covering some 747,180 has. are still being processed.

By end-August, NCIP will implement new guidelines for Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in granting Certificate of Pre-Conditions for mining projects.

Indigenous groups have called for the scrapping of the FPIC guidelines promulgated by NCIP in 2003. The Aeta group CLAA had called for its scrapping, saying indigenous groups have been deceived by mining proponents.

NCIP chairman Janette Cansing Serrano said, "Generally, the [new] guidelines provide a clear direction for our people especially in NCIP to facilitate FPIC on the grounds."

"The guidelines were subjected to a multi-sectoral consultation, we tried to balance the interest of business, state and domains, to ensure that indigenous people's rights are being protected," she said.

In the new guidelines, Serrano said the NCIP will follow two tracks: one, regular projects on extraction that would impinge on the culture of indigenous peoples; and two, development undertakings in the domain that would impact socio-economic aspects of the tribe.

"We would like to be sensitive for those [development projects] that are not clearly destructive like research," she said.

The new guidelines would also shorten the period for undertaking the FPIC, from 180 days to 90 days.

NCIP claims it has been able to distribute 44 Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) covering at least 896,000 hectares nationwide since 2003.

"We are hitting the 1 million mark," Serrano said. Distribution of some 2 million hectares translating to 75 CADTs is ongoing, she said.

The agency aims to dispose some five million CADTs in over 25 years, "at the rate the Congress is allocating budget [for NCIP]", she said. The agency is proposing P29 million in appropriation but should the national budget be reenacted, they would only get P22 million.

Himpag Mangumalas, chair of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (National Federation of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in the Philippines), said although NCIP had promised to distribute yearly some 100 CADTs, still some 12.2 million has. are open to medium to large-scale mining, accounting for 40.65 percent of the country's total land area.

KAMP data showed 23 identified priority projects of the government, 18 cover indigenous tribes; 10 in Mindanao, 1 in Palawan, 1 in Mindoro and 6 in Cordillera and Northern Luzon.

CLAA recorded 10 Aetas were killed under Arroyo due mainly in defense of their ancestral lands. The latest of which, is Charlie Daylo, an Aeta leader and coordinator of Anakpawis-Zambales.

Mallari said, "Hindi nauunawaan ng mga Aeta ang proseso ng gubyerno dahil hindi pinapaliwanag, puro magagandang pangako ang sinasabi.kapag naagrabyado ang mga katutubo at nagsimulang lumaban, saka sila ginagamitan ng dahas." (The Aetas don't understand the processes because the government give no explanation, aside from sweet promises. When the people get abused and start fighting, they start using force.)

"Para kanino ba talaga ang gubyerno?" (For whom is this government?) Bulatlat


11th August 2006

The Universe Newsroom - http://www.totalcatholic.com/universe/index.php?news_id=1456&start=0&category_id=&parent_id=0&arcyear=&arcmonth=

Labour MP Clare Short has warned of the destruction of the natural environment of the Philippines unless international mining companies are stopped.

Accompanied by Columban Fr Frank Nally and CAFOD country representative Carino Antequisa on a visit to the country Mrs Short described her shock at just how destructive the mining companies have been in the Philippines.

"I've never seen anything as systematically destructive as what is going on in the Philippines. The programme envisaged would destroy much of the precious mountains and lakes the rights of the people are being overidden," said Mrs Short.

Mrs Short questioned the credibility of claims made by the Philippines government that it will abide by international standards. "These are clearly just words, they are not said sincerely or many of these developments would be ruled out," she said.


http://www.cbcponline.net/news/html/news1-aug4.html

4th August 2006

Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) has withdrawn its proposed coal mining project in Isabela province after a decade of dispute with church leaders, environmentalists and local residents. In dialogue with Isabela folks and environmentalists, PNOC President and Chief Executive Officer Eduardo Mac said that they were pulling out of the project because of the lack of community support.

The coal project was supposed to have been built adjacent to towns of Naguillian, Benito Soliven and Cauayan City but they all rejected the PNOC's request for endorsement of the project. This would have been the country's first coal-fired power plant located in a mine site.

"We absolutely reject PNOC's proposed mine-mouth coal-plant because it will threaten the lives of the people in the surrounding communities," said Isabela Anti-Coal Mine Alliance leader Fr. Tony Ancieta in a phone interview.

The decision also drawn from anti-coal stance through a petition signed by more than 15,000 people and resolutions from local government officials of said three places, all strongly rejecting the proposal.

An island-wide resolve to stop coal mining was known among the young and old who protested in front of the Philippine National Oil Company in Taguig, Manila few days before the PNOC came out with a decision. To drive their message home, parishioners from Isabela and volunteers from Greenpeace, a non-profit organization, some wore protective coveralls and gas masks, blocked the gates of the PNOC with signs displaying skulls to symbolize the ill-effects of coal plants to the environment and to human health. "We made sure that the message gets out and clear to the government that we strongly oppose coal mining," Ancieta said.

The project, he said, will only taint their air and water supply and ruin crops, devastating health and livelihoods. "I think people have realized there's a lot at stake here," the priest said.

"The people of Isabela have defeated a coal plant," he stressed. "And unity was the key factor for the victory."

He said the "victory" is a tribute to the communities in the province who have been tirelessly working against the said project ever since it was proposed. Coal, according to Greenpeace, is the dirtiest fossil fuel. "The acute and long term environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it expensive and unacceptable burden to its host communities. The coal moreover is a major contributor to climate change, the greatest threat to our world today."

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner Jasper Inventor said the growing resistance "to this dirty fossil fuel" should be a signal to the government that coal is not a wise investment. "If President Arroyo is serious in achieving a 'Green Philippines' in five years, the government should stop construction and expansion of more coal plants in the country," he added.

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