PNOC halts coal mining project in Isabela

PNOC halts coal mining project in Isabela

Tuesday, August 8th 2006

The Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) has withdrawn its proposed coal-mining project in Isabela after a decade of dispute with church leaders, environmentalists and local residents.

Fr. Tony Ancieta, leader of the Isabela Anti-Coal Mine Alliance, said during a dialogue with residents and environmentalists in the province, PNOC president and chief executive officer Eduardo Maã±alac announced that they were pulling out of the project because of the “lack of community support.”

The mining project was supposed to be built adjacent to the towns of Naguillian, Benito Soliven and Cauayan City but the communities reportedly rejected PNOC’s request for endorsement of the project. It would have been the country’s first coal-fired power plant located in a mine site.

“We absolutely reject PNOC’s proposed mine-mouth coal-plant because it will threaten the lives of the people in the surrounding communities,” said Ancieta in a telephone interview.

Ancieta believes the PNOC also considered the petition signed by more than 15,000 people and resolutions from local government officials in three places rejecting the proposal.

Residents in the province held a series of island-wide activities to stop the proposed mining project and also picketed the PNOC office in Taguig City a few days before the decision was released.

To drive their message home, parishioners from Isabela and volunteers from Greenpeace, a non-profit organization, wore protective coveralls and gas masks, blocked the gates of the PNOC with signs displaying skulls to symbolize the ill effects of coal plants to the environment and to human health.

“We made sure that the message gets out and clear to the government that we strongly oppose coal mining,” Ancieta said.

The project, he said, will only taint the air and water supply and ruin crops, devastating the health of the people and their livelihood.

“I think people have realized there’s a lot at stake here. The people of Isabela have defeated a coal plant and unity was the key factor for the victory.”

He said the “victory” is a tribute to the communities in the province who have been tirelessly working against the project since it was proposed. Coal, according to Greenpeace, is the dirtiest fossil fuel.

“The acute and long term environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it expensive and unacceptable burden to its host communities. The coal, moreover, is a major contributor to climate change, the greatest threat to our world today,” the priest stressed.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner Jasper Inventor said the growing resistance “to this dirty fossil fuel” should be a signal to the government that coal is not a wise investment.

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