Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Coal War in Palawan

by Anton Antonio
June 29, 2015

There are two tracks open towards the institutionalizing environmental reforms.  These are (1) environmental lobbying or (2) environmental advocacy.  In environmental advocacy, however, it will have to be coupled with environmental activism.  “An advocacy is a structured process to gain public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or public policy.” (Antonio, 2014)  “Environmental lobbying is defined as the process of putting pressure on members of the legislature or seeking to influence a politician or public official to pass bills on an environmental issue or established public policies on the environment.  The normal targets of environmental lobbying are the elected senators and congressional district representatives since our legislative branch is bicameral in structure.  Environmental lobbying with the legislative branch is effective on non-existent public policies of measure that are still to be passed as bills and enacted into laws or republic acts.   However, lobbying could also be done with the executive department particularly the department secretaries especially on laws that still lack the implementing rules and regulations or are presently being implemented.” (Antonio, 2014)

Between the legislative and executive branches of government, environmental advocates and activists are divided on which branch of government environmental lobbying could be more effective.  While institutional environmental reforms are best accomplished through public policies (therefore, the legislature), there are those who believe that there is easier access through the executive (particularly the department secretaries).  But which approach is more effective?  Your guess is as good as any.

The success of an environmental lobby and advocacy will largely depend on how strong the lobby is… or how much noise lobbyists, advocates and activists cam muster.  “If we are “noisy” enough about what we want to see happen, somehow-sometime-somewhere, this will eventually get to someone who could actually make it happen.”  (Antonio, 2013)  Let’s take the proposed Palawan Coal Plant for example…

In December 2, 2013, the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) came up with a memorandum suggesting that the Philippine government makes a strategic shift to renewable sources of energy and depart from coal.  Lately, though, the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Palawan (using the Palawan Council for  Sustainable Development [PCSD]) granted a Strategic Environmental Plan Clearance (SEPC) to the DMCI Power Corp. and Palawan Electric Cooperative which will pave the way for the DENR to issue an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).  To further strengthen the coal plant project, the Department of Energy (DOE) threw-in its support because it is consistent to the department’s energy sufficiency program.  On the other hand, on June 25, 2015, the Department of Tourism (DOT) cited the DENR’s 2013 memorandum to also take a stand against the establishment of a coal-powered plant arguing that Palawan is an important site for: (a) tourism development, sustainability, conservation and environmental protection; (b) a model destination for ecotourism; (c) a home to two UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage sites; and more importantly, (d) a marine and terrestrial ecosystem known to be one of the most diverse in the world.  The Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE), an umbrella organization of Palawan civil society, is largely credited for the deafening and sustained “noise” that kept everyone aware on the propriety of the coal plant project.

It really is a confusing story with so many stars taking lead roles in this on-going coal telenovela in Palawan.  But from the many stars that are involved in the coal plant project, it is easy to assume that, because of its activism and vigilance, it was PACE that made a difference in the coal war in Palawan.

Just my little thoughts…

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Antonio, A. C. (2013). “The Ripple Principle”.  Retrieved on June 29, 2015 from

Antonio, A. C. (2014). “Stages of Environmental Lobbying”.  Retrieved on June 29, 2015 from

Antonio, A. C. (2015) “Coal Plant in Palawan?”  Retrieved on June 29, 2015 from

Antonio, A. C. (2015). “Coal Narratives”.  Retrieved on June 29, 2015 from

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