Philippine News - Typhoon Yolanda Damage in Tacloban - Photo by Greenpeace

Five years after Yolanda, climate activists decry ‘inconsistent’ climate and energy policies

PH must lead renewable energy shift to combat climate change, groups say

Five years after the destruction of Typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan), Filipino civil society organizations, specifically advocates for climate justice and energy transformation, are alarmed over the Philippine government’s policies on climate and energy.

“Our inconsistent climate and energy policy is costing us not only the lives of our people, but our hope for a more accessible, sustainable energy system which can alleviate poverty and respond to the needs of vulnerable Filipinos,” says Gerry Arances, Executive Director of Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development.

Arances cites that even with the Clean Energy Scenario, the Philippine Energy Plan still projects fossil fuels to still be the primary energy source by 2040 at 78.81% and renewable energy at 21.19%, despite the country’s nationally-determined contribution to the Paris Agreement pledging a 70% reduction in GHG emissions below BAU projections by 2030.

“As we are among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, the wake up call that was Yolanda should have been cause for us to lead not just in the discussion of disaster resilience, but also in shifting away from dirty, costly energy from fossil fuel like coal,” added Arances.

Arances cited the DOE’s coal-dependent policy as a “symbol that the Philippines has learned nothing from Yolanda.” “As another Typhoon Haiyan lurks around the corner, here we are increasing the vulnerabilities of Filipinos by greenlighting more coal projects in vulnerable coastal areas, and cursing poor, vulnerable communities to decades more of energy poverty,” said Arances.

Arances said that the experience of previously unelectrified communities with renewable energy, as well as its use for response during disasters like Typhoon Yolanda and Ompong “have proven that renewable energy is more compatible with our climate needs and in tune with our environment as a country.”

In its preliminary studies on Philippine coasts and the climate, CEED found that coastal communities are among the most vulnerable when it comes to climate change, and yet their vulnerabilities are increased by environmental degradation, health costs, and destruction of livelihood posed by energy and extractive projects.

“Coastal communities which are already exposed to climate-related disasters and sensitive to the slow-onset impacts of climate change are threatened by such projects,” said Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Executive Director of Bulig Pilipinas, National Relief, Rehabilitation, and Adaptation Solidarity Network. “This is because their adaptive capacity is being lessened through the loss of income, displacement from their sources of livelihood, and health hazards,” he added.

Pedrosa urged the national government to consider the area’s vulenrability to climate-related disasters in green-lighting energy and climate projects in granting certificates of environmental compliance (ECCs) to companies. “Unfortunately, the bare minimum compliance is already in danger of not being met, with 189 coal extraction and energy projects applying for the Energy Project of National Significance (EPNS) certificate under President Duterte’s Executive Order 30,” he warned.

Executive Order 30 enables the DOE-led Energy Investment Coordinating Council (EICC) to drastically hasten the approval process for particular big energy projects. Among the projects granted EPNS status is the heavily contested Atimonan One Energy (A1E) 1,200 MW power plant in the coastal area of Atimonan, Quezon, near the protected area of Lamon Bay. “Biodiversity, human lives, and livelihood near Lamon Bay are already jeopardized by climate change, but now the people of Atimonan have the power station threatening these as well,” Pedrosa elaborated.

“Nakalulungkot na binasbasan ng Pangulo ang planta sa kabila ng pagpapalayas, panlilinlang, at kawalan ng kabuhayan na dinanas naming mga taga-Atimonan dahil sa proyektong ito,” said Reynaldo Opalda of Atimonan, Quezon. (“It is saddening that the plant now has the President’s blessing even with the displacement, deception, and destruction of livelihood the people of Atimonan has suffered because of the project.”)

“Kung ngayon pa lang ganito na magnegosyo ang A1E sa aming lugar, paano pa kaya kapag umaandar na ang planta?” Opalda asked. (“If this is how A1E conducts business now, what can we expect when the plant starts operation?”)

Article By Vin N. Buenaagua

Advocacy and Networking Officer
Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED)