Thursday, July 28, 2016

Press Statement: Duterte’s first SONA: A promising start, a challenge for bigger, bolder steps for the environment

28 July 2016

Duterte’s first SONA: A promising start, a challenge for bigger, bolder steps for the environment

We in the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) welcome the promising statements made by President Rodrigo Duterte in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered last Monday. We commend his pro-environment and pro-people positions on environmental issues, while at the same time urge him to rethink and reconsider some of his policies that have adverse implications for the environment.

Being a staunch critic of destructive mining, President Duterte once again warned against mining corporations that cause destruction to our environment. In the short span since the president’s first day up to the present, the current administration has already penalized erring mining companies through the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Gina Lopez, such as the suspension of erring mining companies operating in Zambales and Palawan provinces.

We support Duterte’s consistent pronouncement that it will review all existing permits not just of mining but also of logging and other environmentally sensitive projects. This review should be anchored on the plight and interests of communities who have long suffered from the negative impacts of environmental destruction. It should comprehensively assess the various companies’ track records in complying with the highest environmental standards, and respecting people’s rights of communities affected by their operations.

The DENR should further conduct genuine consultations and dialogues with various grassroots communities, and make them partners of this comprehensive review. Any company assessed with a concrete track record of environmental destruction, community displacement, and human rights violation should immediately have their permits revoked and their operations closed down.

We urge the current administration to show its earnestness in ending the suffering of mining-affected communities by stepping up efforts in reorienting the country’s current mining policy, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, away from corporate and foreign interests towards genuinely addressing the people’s needs.

The Mining Act of 1995 has long allowed the liberalization of our mineral resources, opening it up to the rapacious plunder of our mineral resources by foreign corporations and their local compradors. A profit-driven and foreignd-dominated large-scale mining industry consequently rapidly accelerates the rapid destruction of our environment, but it contributes negligibly to our country’s employment and economy.

Until this law is replaced by a pro-people and pro-environment mining policy such as the People’s Mining Bill, the crises wrought by big mining will remain a chronic pox upon our people, lands, and environment.

Pres. Duterte has also mentioned the development of Laguna Lake, particularly his plans to transform the lake into an economic zone showcasing ecotourism. The development of the lake should primarily focus on rehabilitation, to genuinely contribute to uplifting the lives of the poor fisherfolk, who Duterte himself said should be the prime beneficiary of the Lake’s bounty.

Thus, any project that would result to the displacement of fisherfolk communities should be rejected. The lingering plans to pursue the stalled reclamation and construction activities for the Laguna Lake Expressway Dike Project (LLEDP) should be permanently repudiated by the Duterte government.

Pres. Duterte has again firmly reiterated his stand against the impositions of the Paris Climate Agreement, stating that the country needs to utilize cheap coal in order to industrialize, and maintaining that it is unfair that the top polluter countries, all industrialized nations, do not shoulder bigger emissions cuts.

We agree that the top polluter countries should have greater responsibility to cut their emissions and redress the low-carbon but high-vulnerability countries, and that our country must strive to build national industries to build our capacities to confront the impacts of climate change. But the emerging reality is that national industrialization is possible without coal, through the utilization of our indigenous and renewable energy sources in the context of clean energy technologies fast becoming cost-competitive and accessible.

More important is the environmental and health impacts of coal, known as the dirtiest energy source. We invite Pres. Duterte to visit the communities living adjacent to coal power plants, especially in the country’s oldest coal power operation in Calaca, Batangas, for him to witness how this pollutive energy source has led to the deterioration of health and loss of livelihood of thousands of families, and the degradation of air and water quality in its environs.

With an overwhelming satisfaction rate as president in Duterte’s first few weeks, the Filipino people are very expectant that change will indeed come under his presidency. We urge him to continue to be open and listen to environmental advocates most especially to grassroots communities, and take bigger and bolder steps in pursuing a new policy regime that will genuinely work for national development and environmental protection.#

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cusi wants ‘diversified’ energy sources

By: Amy R. Remo 01:30 AM July 20th, 2016

The Philippines cannot rely completely on renewable energy sources to provide its electricity requirements at this point in the country’s level of economic development, even if it committed last year to cut its carbon emissions by a hefty 70 percent by 2030.
According to Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, the country will implement an energy policy that meets its specific economic requirements.
“We will chart our own course insofar as energy is concerned to ensure energy supply security, considering that developing countries like the Philippines have low carbon emissions. President Duterte is correct in saying that the country is still in the process of industrialization. We must, therefore, use whatever energy resources are available and affordable for power generation,” the energy chief explained on Tuesday.
“We need diversified energy sources to support our growing economy. The Department of Energy is formulating a strategic fuel policy mix to propel the country’s growing economy. We need to build more baseload power plants while also aggressively pushing for clean energy,” Cusi stressed.
Cusi issued the statement in reaction to recent pronouncements by President Duterte that his administration will would not honor the historic Paris Agreement on climate change that was adopted by 196 countries that participated in the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in France.
Duterte went on to say that the convenant was “stupid” and “absurd” and was something that would set back the country’s economic development. Under this agreement, the Philippines has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent up to 2030.
“While we signed the Paris agreement last year committing ourselves to limit our carbon emissions, we cannot ignore the fact that our level of economic development at this point does not allow us to rely completely on renewable energy sources or clean energy,” Cusi said.
“The DOE stands firm in promoting energy efficiency and conservation to complement its thrust for clean energy development following the country’s intended nationally determined contributions on climate change mitigation efforts,” he further noted.
Cusi added: “We will continue to adhere to internationally accepted environmental standards in our energy use. The DOE is working with the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Climate Change Commission to develop a balanced and sustainable energy policy framework.”

PSALM, San Miguel clash anew over Ilijan power plant contract

By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 20, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The San Miguel Group’s total unpaid obligations to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) for the generated capacity of the 1,200-megawatt (MW) Ilijan power plant in Batangas has ballooned to over P12 billion, according to a government source.
The amount is the accumulated shortfalls in generation payments from June 2010 to April 2016, which includes undisputed obligations, the source said.
Meanwhile, the San Miguel Group’s outstanding generation payment covered by PSALM’s demand letter now amounts to P7.8 billion.
In Sept. 4, 2015, PSALM terminated the independent power producer agreement (IPPA) for the Ilijan plant with South Premiere Power Corp. (SPPC) for failure to pay the outstanding generation payments from Dec. 26, 2012 to April 25, 2015 amounting to P6.46 billion.
SPPC is a subsidiary of SMC Global Power Holdings Corp., the power unit of the San Miguel Group.
Following the termination of contract, SMC Global chairman Ramon Ang sued PSALM for “intentional breach of contract.”
Ang said SPPC had already paid P180 billion in obligations to PSALM for the Ilijan IPPA, broken down into P36 billion in capacity fee and P144 billion
in generation payments, as of September 2015.
SMC Global, through SPPC, then asked the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 208 to prevent PSALM from terminating the contract, where after the local court issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the power company after the TRO lapsed.
Recently, San Miguel Corp. and Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) have confirmed they are in talks for a possible partnership for the Ilijan power plant, which is the asset involved in the case still lodged at the Mandaluyong City RTC.
“We offered to sell 49 percent of Ilijan power plant to Meralco and we are in talks but we can only close the deal once the court case which we have filed against PSALM has been resolved,” Ang said last week.
Meralco president Oscar Reyes said the company is in “very early discussions” with the San Miguel Group for a possible 49 percent investment in the power plant through SPPC.
However, the deal depends on the resolution of the case filed against PSALM. Energy Secretary Cusi also said SMC would need the approval of government to be able to sell part of its interest in the Ilijan plant.
SMC bagged the Ilijan IPPA in April 2010 after it outbid other parties with a $870 million offer. SPPC was then issued the certificate of effectivity as the Ilijan plant’s IPPA after all conditions precedent had been met.

Rody won’t honor Paris climate deal

By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 19, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A historic climate agreement pushed by the previous administration will not be honored by President Duterte, who believes that the deal is blocking the progress of developing countries like the Philippines. 
Duterte said that industrialized countries are “dictating the destiny” of developing ones by requiring them to cut carbon emissions.
“We have not reached the age of industrialization. We are going into it. But you are trying to (cite an) agreement that will impose limitations on us. We maintain the present emission. That’s stupid,” Duterte said during the sendoff for the Philippine delegation to the Rio Olympics yesterday at MalacaƱang.
“I will not honor that,” he added.
Last April, more than 150 countries signed the historic Paris climate deal that seeks to limit global warming “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. World leaders have also promised to continue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The signatories are also required to step up measures that will stop the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. 
The Philippines under then president Benigno Aquino III committed to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030 even if it is not a major source of greenhouse gases. The Paris agreement, however, does not say what will happen to countries that fail to meet their emission reduction goals. 
The agreement was crafted during the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in France last December. During the conference, Aquino said the survival of island nations depends on the international community’s commitment to act on climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
Duterte said he has expressed his refusal to honor the Paris agreement in a conversation with an ambassador whom he did not name. 
When the ambassador reminded him that the Philippines signed the Paris deal, Duterte said: “That was not my signature. Somebody else’s, not mine.” 
“We’ll make a new one or we do not honor (it) at all,” he added. 
Duterte, who vowed to honor international agreements during his inauguration, noted that developed countries harmed the environment while they were undergoing industrialization. 
“Now that we are about to develop, you (developed countries) will set limits,” the President said. 
“Kalokohan yan (That’s absurd). So that is how very competitive and how very constricted our lives are now. It’s being controlled by the world. It’s being imposed upon us by the industrialized countries. They think that they can dictate the destiny of the rest of the nations,” he added. 
Last May, Duterte said industrialized nations should help developing ones comply with the Paris agreement by providing financial assistance. 
“I don’t have problem with that. I will cooperate with whatever it takes to cut emission but look at history,” Duterte said in a press briefing. 
“They (developed nations) were enjoying the booming (economy) and flooding the air with contaminants. Now that they are rich because of coal and industrialization, we are being asked to cut emission and limit our activities,” he added. 
“If you have qualms, pay us or give us time to catch up.” 
Frequent natural calamities have been blamed on climate change which, in turn, has been attributed to greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities. 
Some sectors, however, doubt the connection between emissions and climate change and scored what they described as “climate alarmism” that benefits the interests of green technology and renewable energy investors.