MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippine National Oil Company Withdraws Proposed Coal Mining Project

Published by MAC on 2006-08-04

Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) has withdrawn its proposed coal mining project in Isabela province after a decade of dispute with church leaders, environmentalists and local residents.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.
& quot;We absolutely reject PNOC's proposed mine-mouth coal-plant because it will threaten the lives of the people in the surrounding communities,& quot; 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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