ILOILO City – Greenpeace activists from different countries, including the crew of Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, and members of Responsible Ilonggos for Sustainable Energy (RISE) established a “climate defenders camp” at the site of a proposed coal-fired plant coal in Brgy. Ingore, La Paz district.

They are demanding the cancellation of the plant and calling on the Senate to fast track the passage of the Renewable Energy Bill, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives, to pave the way for ambitious renewable energy developments in the country and make any notion of new coal redundant.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given strong backing for the construction of the 165-megawatt coal plant. But Greenpeace warned it will contribute to climate change and contaminate local communities.

“A coal plant does not and must not have any business in Iloilo nor the Philippines anymore. We want clean, renewable energy to power the development of the city and our country. The entire Western Visayas should be made a development model for renewable energy,” said Melvin Pursuelo, convener of RISE.

The camp consists of a tower and tents on a seaside area previously used for fish ponds but now allocated for the coal plant.

Banners with messages saying “Quit Coal, Save the Climate” and “Coal Causes Climate Change” are hung around the camp, located a few kilometers away from the center of the city.

Since yesterday, Greenpeace activists staying in the camp have been transmitting messages and images of the protest to a global audience and seek support to stop the proposed coal-fired power plant.

The camp aims to step up public opposition to the proposed coal plant and is meant to be a hub for local communities and groups who are against it.

It also serves as a center for Greenpeace’s public awareness campaign about the ill-effects of coal-fired power plants, climate change and its dangerous impacts, and solutions such as renewable energy.

The construction of the camp, as well as the set up of the Greenpeace-Solar Generation Solar Café at Brgy. Ingore, has caught the attention of the coal-fired power plant proponents Panay Power Corp. and Global Business Power Corp. (a subsidiary of Metrobank), who would like to see the camp dismantled.

Yesterday morning, the police set up a checkpoint, inspecting pro-environment supporters, students, bikers and the Solar Café team.

In Manila on Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Renewable Energy Resources Act, which seeks to promote the development, utilization and commercialization of renewable energy in the Philippines.

The passage of the Act is a significant milestone in a country where community opposition to coal power plants is surging due to concerns about climate change and pollution.

Recently, leading political figures have also voiced strong opposition to coal plants, backed our call for the country to “Quit Coal” and supported clean renewable energy developments.

The governor of Albay province, an area recently hit by disastrous typhoons and mudslides, declared the province a coal-free zone, in addition to Negros Occidental which has already adopted a path towards a 100 percent renewable energy. Meanwhile, Senators Miguel Zubiri and Pia Cayetano expressed support for our “Quit Coal” campaign and a shift to renewable energy.

“The Senate must pass the Renewable Energy Bill. The present situation demands that the government quickly and radically improve energy efficiency, deal with the problems of energy distribution and develop the renewable energy market. We have to do it now while the country sits on 54 percent over-capacity for electricity generation and a huge renewable energy potential. The threat of climate impacts to the entire country should be enough to spur the government to mitigate and adapt, starting with the cancellation of new coal power plant projects,” said Jasper Inventor, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

A new study has revealed that the Philippines has a renewable energy potential of more than 200,000 megawatts from a combination of geothermal, wind, solar, biomass and mini-hydro – more than five times the country’s current energy demand.

Most of the renewable energy potential is yet to be tapped because of the absence of an investment and development framework and delays by the Arroyo government in passing the Renewable Energy Bill.

The Rainbow Warrior is in the Philippines to spearhead the Greenpeace “Quit Coal Tour” in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Greenpeace aims to promote an energy revolution to stop climate change, which includes phasing out the use of climate-damaging coal and rejecting nuclear power, and calls for a massive uptake of renewable energy./PN

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