Coal isn’t cool: Bataan students, residents take plight to Facebook
BATAAN, Philippines – Bataan communities allegedly affected by coal-fired power plants in two towns take to Facebook to mobilize support for their plight.
With the help of social media-savvy students, residents from Limay and Mariveles towns in Bataan created a Facebook group named Coal is not cool that serves as a communication hub for the concerned communities and their supporters.
The group, which was created during the #ClimateActionPH workshop held at the Blessed Regina Protmann Catholic in Mariveles on February 19, now has more than 900 members. (READ: LIVE BLOG: #ClimateAction Workshop in Bataan)
Among the group’s activities is an online campaign that encourages netizens to change their profile pictures to a No to coal plant logo with the hashtag #CoalMakesUsSick.
This drive leads up to a “walk for a cause” in Limay on Monday, February 27, to bring the issue to the attention of the local government, according to the Coal-free Bataan Movement.
“Ito talaga pinapatay tayo. Unti-unti dahil sa mga issue (This is really killing us. This is killing us slowly because of the issues),” said Derek Cabe, coordinator for the Coal-Free Bataan Movement during Sunday’s workshop.
Residents in Barangay Lamao in Limay complained of health problems, including skin and respiratory diseases, that were allegedly caused by the conglomerate-operated plants in the province. They claimed that many of them fell ill since the alleged ash spill in early January this year.
In response to these complaints, the plants’ operators have said that the illnesses were not directly caused by their presence in the area.
The provincial government of Bataan offered to provide housing for 250 affected families within the next months, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said in a statement on February 21.
However, the community opposes the plan as it would entail additional financial burden and disrupt their livelihood. (READ: Families near Bataan coal plant face displacement)
Clamor for shutdown
At the #ClimateActionPH workshop, Cabe shared that locals are against coal plants because these take away their rights to safety, having homes, and clean water.
Cabe:When you go to communities, people aren't against coal because of global warming. Tinatanggalan kasi sila ng karapatan #ClimateActionPH— Climate Reality PH (@ClimateRealPH) February 19, 2017
Since the coal-fired power plant in Barangay Lamao began operations in 2013, residents have complained of contracting various skin and health problems such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and eye infections due to constant exposure to coal ash and dust.
Last February 14, in the wake of an alleged ash spill, about 100 members of the Limay Concerned Citizens, Inc. (LICCI) marched to the plant’s headquarters to protest.
Carina Dellosa of LICCI tearfully shared how homes in their community were demolished with backhoes as she and others suffered skin problems.
Dellosa shares that she is experiencing health problems. "Nagkakaroon kami ng pamamantal dahil sa abo." #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
In Barangay Lucanin, Mariveles, where another coal-fired power plant is operating, residents echo similar concerns.
“Kung ano ‘yung nararanasan ng Lamao, siguro balang araw gano’n na rin po ang aming mararanasan,” said Eddie Lorenzo, a Mariveles resident. (Whatever’s happening to Lamao now may happen to us in the future.)
“Isara ang coal-fired power plant. 1979 nandiyan na kami sa Lamao hanggang ngayon. Sila ang nagbigay ng problema sa amin, sila ang mag-asikaso niyan. Ayusin nila ‘yan,” Daisy Pedranza, a longtime resident of Limay, argued. (Shut the coal-fired power plants down. We’ve been here since 1979. They gave us problems, they should take care of that. They should fix that.)
Communities have showed resistance to the coal plants by holding forums, rallies, starting petitions, and even physically blocking the backhoes sent to demolish their homes.
More plants to be built
The two coal-fired power plants in Mariveles and Limay are among the 25 operating around the country as of January 2017, according to Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)’s Mikhaila Rosales.
In the pipeline, meanwhile, are 33 more. Four of these are proposed to be built in Bataan as well.
Environmental groups argue that building these coal plants will intensify the effects of climate change in our country. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: #ClimateActionPH and Bataan's battle vs coal)
Rosales: Why are we against coal power plants? Because of climate change. #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
Rosales: Mas mai-intensify ang harmful effects ng climate change kapag nagpatuloy ito. #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
Rosales: Coals are not clean. Sa pagtatayo ng isang coal plant, maraming natural resources na nasisira. #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
Rosales: We have renewable energy law. Malaki ang potential ng renewable energy sa Pilipinas. #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
Across the Philippines are 14 “sites of struggles,” or those places where there are strong networks of struggle against coal-fired power plants.
In October last year, the PMCJ launched the #CoalIsNotTheAnswer campaign. Rosales said this resulted in a dialogue among their organization, the communities, and the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR). This, in turn, led to an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) audit.
The campaign led to the cancellation of a proposed coal-fired power plant in Sual, Pangasinan. Rosales said they are hoping for the same to happen in Bataan.
Rosales: Expose the problems. Oppose the system. Propose alternative solutions to these problems. #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
Rosales: To expose problems, we have information, education, and communication. #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
Rosales: We can have propaganda works, mobilizations, and social media campaigns to further expose problems. #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
Rosales: Huwag kayong matakot na labanan ang coal plants. Marami kayong suporta mula sa ibang organizations. #ClimateActionPH— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 19, 2017
The day-long #ClimateActionPH workshop was attended by over 50 participants from the communities in Mariveles and Limay, and students from grade school to high school.
Aside from Cabe and Rosales, speakers Rodne Galicha of The Climate Reality Project Philippines, Paeng Lopez of Healthcare Without Harm, Zaira Banaga of PMCJ also shared their respective expertise on the effects of coal and climate change.
Speakers from MovePH also shared how to tell stories that concern the environment and good practices in the responsible and effective use of social media in advocacies.
After the panel discussions, a workshop was conducted to allow the participants apply their newly-acquired knowledge on harnessing social media to amplify their voice as a community. – With a report from Voltaire Tupaz/Rappler.com