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Thousands protest against new coal-fired power plant

MANILA (Agencies): Around 10,000 people from various Church groups, concerned citizens, and civil society organisations marched in Batangas City, The Philippines, on May 4 to call for a moratorium on new coal plants in the country.

Led by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, from Lipa, the demonstrators demanded that the next administration cancel all proposed coal-fired projects and shift to renewable energy, according to a report of CBCP News.

“We are facing a planetary emergency. Now more than ever, we need leaders who are pro-people and pro-environment, not pro-coal and pro-climate change,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop was also quoted by UCAN News as saying that, despite previous Church statements against the use of fossil fuels, many Catholic leaders in the region have remained silent.

“I challenge the bishops to publicly speak out and condemn coal. We have to do what God told us to do, to protect the environment,” Archbishop Arguelles said.

“As shepherds, we must lead the fight to break free from dirty energy,” he added, saying that Church leaders “need to show full commitment” to On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’) Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and climate change.

The archbishop, along with local fisher folk and other social movements, is currently leading a fight against the building of a 600-megawatt coal plant in the city’s Pinamucan Ibaba village by JG Summit Holdings.

“It is immoral to burden future generations with pollution and the cost of mistaken energy choices made today. It is time to end the age of coal,” he declared.

The anti-coal march highlighted a national campaign called Piglas Batangas! Piglas Pilipinas! (Break Free Batangas! Break Free Philippines!) symbolised by the struggle against the proposed.

Local anti-coal groups were joined by other coal-affected communities from Quezon province and other parts of the country, as well as advocacies and civil society groups from Metro Manila and other provinces in southern Luzon.

Piglas is a call for the incoming president and other new government officials to scrap the Pinamucan coal plant and the other 26 proposed coal plants currently in the pipeline. It is also a demand for the phase-out of the 19 existing coal plants nationwide,” Ian Rivera, national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice told CBCP News.

Ruel Cabile, national coordinator of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, said the next administration must review the current one’s commitment to reduce 70 per cent of the country’s emissions by 2030.

“It must also demand climate finance from developed countries, as well as mobilise its own resources so it can implement a swift and just transition to clean and renewable energy,” he added.

The campaign is part of a worldwide movement and the first in Asia to join Break Free from Fossil Fuels 2016, a global wave of peaceful direct actions across 12 days and six continents. Mass actions are scheduled until May 15 in other countries, including Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, the United States of America, Germany and Australia.

Other communities will also be holding solidarity events in Cebu and Calaca, Batangas, which has the oldest coal plant in the country, among other areas.

Piglas Batangas, Piglas Pilipinas is our battle cry for a safe, peaceful and sustainable society. Batangas and the rest of The Philippines will not bow to those who think of nothing but profit instead of people and plunder instead of protecting the environment,” Naderev Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said.

“Coal represents darkness, and Break Free is our source of light, especially for all communities who are standing up in the face of the fossil fuel industry’s relentless expansion despite climate change and the people’s clamour for climate justice. Today, we declare that we will break free from coal,” he said.

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