Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Coal Narratives

by Anton Antonio
June 10, 2015

Here are some narratives from government personalities in the Senate hearing on climate change conducted Monday, June 8, 2015:
  • Sen. Loren Legarda (on coal and coal power plants: “The worst source of carbon is coal.  So why did we approve 21 coal power plant Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECC) despite their impact on the environment?  This scenario scares me.”
  • Sen. Loren Legarda (on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] and Department of Energy [DOE]):  “When I realized our own government could approve additional coal plants, it scares me further.  It seems that there are certain government agencies detached from human reality.”
  • USec. Jonas Leones of the DENR (on why 21 coal power plants were granted ECCs):  “ECCs are a set of conditions wherein the proponents comply with environmental mitigations and enhancement.”  (USec Leones added that the DENR issued ECCs to support the thrust of the DOE.)  Before ECCs are issued, the power plants should first have an operating agreement with DOE, consultations with local government units (LGUs) and communities.  Then the proponents are required to make an environment impact statement.  If it’s an IP (indigenous people) or protected area, we consult the Biodiversity Management Bureau.”
  • Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change:  “Carbon dioxide is now at unprecedented levels, unseen for at least the last 800,000 years.  In fact, 9 of the 10 warmest years in the last 134 years have occurred since 2000.”
  • Sen. Loren Legarda (on the obvious haste in issuing the ECCs):  “It’s like there’s a race to build coal plants in two years.”
  • USec. Raul Aguilos of the DOE (on coal plants being the cheapest technology available):  “A far as coal plants are concerned, the DOE actually remains technology-neutral.  What we need are stable, reliable, and affordable energy or electricity to be provided to the people.  As far as application of coal power plants are concerned, yes, we endorse this because we need to improve and increase the capacity, especially for problematic areas like Mindanao, where massive brownouts occurred because they’re so dependent on hydroelectric power plants.  Since the Philippines is now in a privatized environment, the government cannot invest in power generation, se we leave it to the private sector to decide.”
  • Sen. Loren Legarda:  “Although coal may be the most affordable in terms of business, its adverse health and environmental impacts are far from cheap.”
  • USec. Raul Aguilos:  “That’s why there’s a need for us to work with the Climate Change Commission and other agencies.”
  • Sec. Lucille Sering of the Climate Change Commission (on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] mandate to bring down average global temperature by 2 degrees centigrade):  “The Philippines, as the new chair of the Climate Vulnerability Forum (CVF), is also pushing for a 1.5 degrees centigrade reference.”
  • Rosalina de Guzman of PAGASA: “Even with 1 degree centigrade (increase in world average temperature), there would be rising intensity of storms.”
  • Dr. Gemma Narisma of Manila Observatory: “This (1 degree centigrade increase) could also damage roughly a third of coral reefs, leaving over 500 million people affected by job loss, food security, and hunger.”
  • Sec. Lucille Sering:  “GDP growth is almost the same as the carbon dioxide growth in any country, hence the challenge for governments to balance improving the economy while also saving the environment.  Both developed and developing countries should commit to reducing carbon emissions.”
  • Sen. Loren Legarda: “Maraming magsasabing ‘di naman tayo [carbon] emitter, ‘di naman tayo makakatuldok sa mundo, so bakit pa tayo magko-comply?” (A lot of people say we’re not emitters, we won’t put an end to global warming, so why do we need to comply?)  “But it makes good business sense, environment sense, health sense to mitigate.”

Last June 1, 2015, I published this coal and coal plant-related article titled “Coal Plant in Palawan?” in my blogsite ( and Facebook account and got the following comments from some of my netizen friends:
  • Jeannie Manoney: “It’s the worst step backwards for the province, the country, the region, the world.  While coal is being phased out in the US, the Philippines shouldn’t take up the baton in producing the most harmful fossil fuel ever to be lifted and processed off the ground.”
  • Nellie San Agustin:  “My Friend, Anton Antonio, this is extremely alarming.  Is it too late to file a petition to to halt implementation?”
  •  Jaztin De Jesus Altea: “Compared to metro manila, palawan’s price of electricity is relatively high.  We also have recurring brown-outs due to power shortage and distribution problems.  Many business activities including the government service are affected just because of power shortage.  It’s really a big issue here in our province and the inconvenience brought by this current reality forces few palawenos to embrace coal and decide out of desperation.  It is very easy to decide on your standpoint.
  • Rene Caguapujan Borromeo:  “there are clean energy pursuits that are sadly not economically and technically feasible.  Such as, there are no water falls, no geothermal energy, not enough wind power, or that to be able to generate solar energy, you need to clear up a forest.  The question sometimes end up to:  as we going to shallow the bitter pill of coal power plant or just condemn an area to stunted development because we can’t provide clean power to them?  It’s easy to say not to pursue the power plant, but how do we allow other areas to develop, polluting the environment, while preventing another area to pursue such development?  I guess the task of the environmental manager is to mitigate and minimize the environmental impacts of a pollutive energy source it impacts can’t be prevented.”
  • Michelle De Leon:  “Rene Agree!  In fact, we aren’t sure if solar is the cleanest if we consider the system’s LIFE CYCLE… it may be the greenest in the sense that “the end justifies the means” but then considering the procedure it takes to produce one, the result or the disposal, am not sure.. it has to be assess.  Also, in urgency, coal seems to be the (relatively) easier to explore and extract… though it is polluting as it produces energy.  As you said it, sustainability goes with development… with minimal damage on the environment.. even primitive ways are hurting the environment, who doesn’t? which approach doesn’t? with people in the environment consuming its resources, there will always be impact (in any degree).. what we should be aware of is how to minimize these damages. Palawan Tourism Industry can be further developed if they have sufficient power supply and with Pro-poor Tourism the priority is the affair of the society (this can alleviate poverty in the area). Particulate matter and pollutants in moderation can be naturally handled by nature (look at how volcanic eruption pollutes our environment in great amount).  Also, whether we mine the resources or not, if there is an ore body underneath all those processes with negative impact to the people and environment cited will still occur, why is pollution only blamed in the “mine” in fact with responsible mining the effect to the environment can be reduced if not redirected (where there will be less impact to the people.)  Although I know human-induced pollution is like introducing an alien in the natural-system.  With change, there’s adaptation, we need to have responsible and sustainable consumption… anything in moderation… unless humanity leaves nature alone! p.s. I think it is okay to consume what nature provides again it should be sustainably in moderation… then what we must avoid if we want to protect our nature is the production of synthetic things (laboratory products) because this is the real alien in our nature, and what is created will forever be apart of the system we are in now.”
  • Carlo Roberto Felix:  “hi sir, I can’t share this post. Im not sure if it’s with the settings or because you shared this post in this group. Can you please allow sharing or post this separately on your wall so that we can share on ours? Thanks”

These commentaries seem to touch on a variety of opinions and worldviews about coal and how coal plants contribute to climate change.  They also represent individual thesis and antithesis.  I leave it up to you to form your own synthesis from these coal narratives.

Just my little thoughts…

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Antonio, A. C. (2015).  “Coal Plant in Palawan?” Retrieved on June 10, 2015 from

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