Emergency Power imperils environment and public health, green groups say

Environmental groups today denounced efforts by lawmakers allied with the administration to railroad the granting of emergency powers to the President to address a supposed power crisis, stressing that in its current form, the proposal would entail greater and unacceptable sacrifices for the people and the environment.

The environmental groups, which include the EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), warned that the proposed resolution on emergency powers gives the President authority to suspend the application of environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, and this could make sacrificial zones of communities that will end up hosting polluting energy plants, and open the floodgates for banned waste incinerators masquerading as waste to energy facilities.

Last 18 November 2014, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy approved proposed House Joint Resolution No. 21, granting President Benigno S. Aquino III the authority to provide for the establishment of additional power generating capacity to address an alleged projected electricity shortage in Luzon.

“By authorizing the President to suspend the application of pertinent laws like the Clean Air Act, the resolution would effectively deny Filipinos their constitutionally mandated right to a balanced and healthful ecology. This is simply unacceptable and also betrays the dirty agenda being pushed by politicians and interest groups behind this measure,” said Von Hernandez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition and Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Why suspend the Clean Air Act, if you are not planning to push dirty and polluting facilities as a solution to the much ballyhooed power crisis?” cried Hernandez.

The groups expressed that they are also aware that government officials at the highest levels together with their cohorts in Congress are engaged in a coordinated effort to weaken and water down the country’s existing environmental laws.

“Not even a real crisis, how much more a manufactured one, will justify such a draconian measure,” the groups stressed, pointing out the inconsistencies even in the energy department’s own statements on different occasions about the supposed power crisis.

The environmental groups also contend that the government only has itself to blame if power shortages do materialize next year, citing the lackadaisical attempts of the Aquino administration and local governments to implement the Renewable Energy Act.

The groups pointed out that, instead of aggressively enforcing environmental laws like the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and the Clean Air Act, officials continue to flirt with quick-fix solutions including dirty, polluting, and climate changing power plants like coal (power), and suspicious waste to energy technologies.

The Philippines is endowed with a rich renewable energy potential coming from clean sources like the sun, wind, rivers, ocean currents, as well as biodegradable wastes, which comprise more than 50% of the country’s generated waste. The lack of sustained efforts, investments, and political will on the part of the government to harness this potential, however, has been largely absent, as observed by the environmental groups.

“This administration is squandering the opportunity to do the right thing and make the correct decisions for our future. Instead of meeting our energy challenges in an enlightened manner given what the science is already telling us about toxics pollution and climate change, the technocrats and politicians of this administration remain myopic, intent on deepening the country’s dependence on discredited and polluting power sources,” asserted Hernandez.

“We wouldn’t be surprised if incinerator and coal pushers will exploit this new opening being accorded by the proposed emergency measure. Filipinos already reeling from skyrocketing power rates, pollution, and climate impacts should blame the Aquino administration for this dirty legacy if this measure in its current form comes to pass,” added Hernandez.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a network of more than 150 different organizations and groups, including Greenpeace and GAIA, from all over the country, united by the common goal to combat waste and pollution and promote climate justice and the people’s wellbeing.