MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 27, 2012) - Greenpeace on Friday praised the decision of the Naga Municipal Trial Court in acquitting Filipino environmental activists charged with trespassing during a December 2009 action to document toxic coal ash from the Naga coal-fired power plant that had been dumped in a village called Tinaan in Cebu's Naga town.
Greenpeace carried out the peaceful protest to call attention to the threats posed by coal ash to the health of residents and the environment.
"Activism is not a crime. And we are very glad that the judiciary recognizes this. But we repeat our call to the provincial government to get its act together. Coal ash – a toxic by-product of the coal-firing process from the power plant – was dumped in an area posing a threat to the health and livelihoods of the (Tinaan) community."
"The risks have also increased as more coal ash continues to be produced by the coal plant and threatens other areas in Cebu, and there are still no clear plans for proper disposal," said Mark Dia, Country Representative of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Results of tests conducted by Greenpeace in 2005 from ash samples taken from the Naga and Toledo coal-fired power plants in Cebu revealed the insidious presence of mercury, which is a deadly neurotoxin; arsenic, which is a known carcinogen; as well as other hazardous substances such as lead and chromium.
"The provincial authorities wasted time and taxpayers’ money for over two years by trying to criminalize activists who simply exercised freedom of expression, taking action that they themselves should have taken to protect the community," said Amalie Obusan, one of the activists charged in the case.
Greenpeace campaigns for the only long-term solution to this problem - to phase out the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, one of the most polluting energy sources – and to rapidly develop the Philippines’ abundant renewable energy sources.
Developing and using renewable energy is the smart choice for the economy and for the climate. Fossil fuel prices are rising and will rise much more steeply once all the social and environmental costs are factored in.
“Coal, as well as other fossil fuels will run out and it is recognised gllobally that we cannot keep pumping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere at the current rate for much longer without suffering ever more dangerous climate impacts. Renewable energy never runs out and is clean and sustainable,” added Dia.
Coal-fired power plants have also been identified as the single biggest source of carbon emissions, largely responsible for climate change. The loss of thousands of lives and economic ruin brought about by recent extreme weather events are either aggravated by or can arguably be traced to climate change and the havoc it wreaks on the planet.
Greenpeace said it is advocating an “Energy Revolution,” – a transformation in the way energy is used, produced and distributed – as a key solution to mitigate climate change. This entails a massive shift to renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
It said it has identified a target of 50% RE in the Philippines’ energy mix by 2020 as not only achievable but imperative for avoiding dangerous climate change, for energy security and for sustainable economic growth.