“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required…”Luke 12:48
COLLEGIAL PASTORAL STATEMENT ON PROPOSED COAL-FIRED POWER PLANT
Dioceses of Bacolod, Dumaguete, Kabankalan & San Carlos
Negros Island is so rich in history, culture, and God-given biodiversity and natural resources, surrounded by an abundance of sunlight. Indeed, our island is a renewable energy hub, marked not only by solar farms but more significantly by the expansion of distributed renewable energy generation that truly gives – and brings – power to the people.
In his Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis calls for ecological conversion, for humanity to reduce consumption of coal and other fossil fuels that are major contributors to climate change, and to embrace an energy future that is clean, renewable, and equitable – for the health and well-being of our planet and for our future generations.
Our beloved Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has stated in no uncertain terms that poor people around the world suffer greatly from the climate crisis and fossil fuels are among the main drivers of this injustice.
We are one with our Holy Father in issuing the urgent call to ecological conversion. Moreover, we recognize that this begins at home, and it begins with each and every one of us.
There are already 9 solar power plants, 8 biomass plants, and 10 hydropower plants in all of Negros with a combined capacity of 579.43 MW. In our dioceses, we are increasingly demonstrating that sustainable energy practices work for us and for our communities. Decentralized rooftop solar energy systems in the dioceses of Bacolod and San Carlos, for example, show how small-scale distributed renewable energy generation is climate-friendly, sustainable, and affordable. The local churches of Dumaguete and Kabankalan are equally committed to seriously implement the Laudato Sí Challenge of the Holy Father and are finding concrete ways to safeguard our environment. These are strongly indicative of the bright future of renewable energy all throughout the province.
In fact, Negros Occidental has been dubbed the Renewable Energy Capital of the Philippines. In 2015, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) stated that Occidental will have the biggest power supply in Western Visayas by 2016, even higher than that of the whole Panay Island.
Data presented by the transmission utility during the Power 102 Seminar and Project Promotion in Bacolod City on November 2015 showed that the province has a potential power supply of 1,028.2 megawatts (MW) for 2016.
Seventy-five percent of this projected power supply is contributed by solar power plants all throughout the province. The power demand of the Negros is reported to be 288 MW thus, there is a projected power excess of about 740 MW.
National Renewable Energy Board Chairman Jose Layug stated in 2017’s Negros Renewable Energy Summit that the region has biomass energy sources that can serve as base load on top of solar and hydro power. DOE also said that with Negros Island’s renewable energy sources, it is poised to become an entirely “green” region by 2030.
Not only is renewable energy functional and accessible, it is also competitive and more affordable. Coal-driven power will never truly be cheap, especially when we factor in the numerous environmental, social, and health costs associated with its usage. In fact, solar power is increasingly becoming the lowest-cost energy option. And with the continuing emergence of storage solutions, renewables will provide greater resiliency and energy independence, immune from the unpredictability of global commodity prices. From the ground up, a global movement is spreading through major sectors – from banks that will no longer finance coal projects to companies, governments, and faith communities that are divesting from fossil fuels and investing instead in climate-friendly, renewable technologies.
Even entire countries such as the U.K, Canada, Marshall Islands, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and others have established a growing international alliance to phase out coal. Asia is on a similar path with China’s coal consumption continuing to fall as it invests increasingly in renewables, while India aims to install 100GW of solar energy by 2022.
And yet, the dark specter of fossil fuels remains with a proposed coal-fired plant in San Carlos City, hanging over our future, exacerbating climate change, threatening our resources, our environment, our health, and our sustainable development. This, despite the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that led the U.N. Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC to urge the phasing out of fossil fuels, stating that coal-fired electricity must end by 2050 to address climate change and its dangerous impacts.
Moreover, a coal-fired power plant will take many years and millions to build, adding to our long-term collective debt, and with no accounting for all its social, environmental, and health impacts. Each year, coal-fired plants pump out 146,000 tons of PM2.5, a form of particulate matter roughly 40 times smaller than a grain of sand. They also pump out 197,000 tons of PM10 pollution, a form of particulate matter or dust that is small enough to slip through a typical mesh filter. Studies have long linked these forms of pollution with increased rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, translating also into billions of pesos in health care costs and lost productivity.
Just recently, over 150 representatives from different sectors culminated a long process of meetings to map out the Negros Island Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan to preserve our wondrous natural heritage. Around the same time, the governors of both
Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental reiterated their categorical opposition to unsustainable coal-fired power plants.
Let us stand firm together in Negros — with each other and with our civic leaders — to oppose any new coal-fired power plants and to phase out those still in operation, collectively affirming the message of Pope Francis:
“Our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments, and increased levels of poverty” (Pope Francis, 2018).
Let us safeguard the gains and success we have achieved so far in improving our Renewable Energy sources and the huge projected excess power supply. We appeal to our Local Government Units and our electric cooperatives all over Negros not to entertain anymore any proposition of a coal-fired power plant in the province and elsewhere.
Let us work together to increase access to clean, renewable, and sustainable energy. Let us affirm our commitment to stewardship and to a clean development path that says no to coal and yes to renewable energy technologies that are accessible to everyone, especially our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
Let us heed the call to ecological conversion and to transformative, renewable power that is shared by all.
Let us live Laudato Si’ together with Mary our Mother and our Patron Saints: St. Sebastian, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Francis Xavier and St. Charles Borromeo.
We make this collegial declaration in preparation for the Solemnity of Christ the King this 23rd day of November 2018.
MOST REV. GERARDO A. ALMINAZA, DD
Bishop of San Carlos
MOST REV. PATRICIO A. BUZON, SDB, DD
Bishop of Bacolod
MOST REV. JULITO B. CORTES, DD
Bishop of Dumaguete
MOST REV. LOUIE P. GALBINES, DD
Bishop of Kabankalan