MANILA, Philippines – At 29%, coal-fired power plants remain the country’s largest energy source as of 2017. After all, it is considered the cheapest source of energy.
The province of Guimaras, however, is bent on leading the way to change this.
On Saturday, February 24, during the visit of Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin and the municipal mayors of the island made a brave declaration: Guimaras is the first coal-free province in Visayas.
“We want to show the world that we don’t need dirty energy to power development. The people of Guimaras have embraced renewables over dirty, polluting energy. We want to show that a sustainable development path, powered by renewable energy, is not only possible, but more viable. And we hope that our humble example will resonate to other provinces and to the world,” Gumarin said.
The province has a long history of resistance against fossil fuels.
In August 11, 2006, Guimaras experienced a devastating oil spill that affected 46 barangays and 6 municipalities. Operated by Petron Corporation and Sunshine Maritime Development Corporation, the M/T Solar I sank off the waters of Panay Gulf, reaching 245 kilometers of coastline and affecting 1,128 hectares of mangrove area.
Four years laterin 2010, the province took a strong position against a coal-fired power plant being proposed at that time in neighboring Iloilo City.
These incidents resulted to the province’s embrace of the wind power as their energy source of choice.
“Our people here in San Lorenzo know the benefits of harnessing the blessings of nature to power our development. Here, we have no coal, thus the absence of all the ills and harms dirty energy brings with it. Today is a victory for our people and our municipality, and I believe, for the whole of Guimaras,” said Ninfa Gajo, mayor of San Lorenzo town.
In 2014, the Trans-Asia Renewable Energy Corporation established the 54-megawatt wind farm in San Lorenzo – a wide plot of land with 27 wind turbines that stand approximately 123 meters tall.
The declaration coincided with the Climate Justice Ship Tour in the Philippines and the visit of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior.
According to Greenpeace, the stop in Guimaras gives focus to the initiatives of communities in their resistance against coal and rising up to the renewable energy challenge that should encourage other communities and local government units to do the same.
“The commitment to go coal-free means that the whole of Guimaras is pursuing a sustainable development path and is a clear manifestation of communities themselves taking the lead towards reclaiming their rights to a healthy environment and stable climate,” said Khevin Yu, Climate & Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines.
“Additional coal plants means we will have a bigger problem in limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We need to stop coal locally, and this is what Guimaras is doing now,” Yu added.
Climate Reality Project and Greenpeace also awarded the province the “Seal of Climate Leadership” for promoting renewable energy.
“The Seal of Climate Leadership recognizes local government units which catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action by embracing renewable energy and commit to promote climate justice, ecological integrity and sustainable development,” said Rodne R. Galicha, Philippine Manager of the Climate Reality Project.– with a report from Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com