Bishop backs anti-coal campaign in central Philippines

Governor of Negros Occidental has declared province coal-free
Bishop backs anti-coal campaign in central Philippines

Young people gather outside the capitol building of Negros Occidental province in the Philippines on March 6 to express their opposition to the building of coal-fired power plants. (Photo courtesy of Climate Reality Project)

A Catholic bishop in the central Philippines has expressed support for a campaign against the building of a coal-fired power plant in Negros Occidental province.

Bishop Gerry Alminaza of San Carlos said local church leaders are giving their full backing for the move, initiated by a youth group.

"As our youth said, we will stand against this because this is about our future," said the prelate on Ash Wednesday.

The group Youth for Climate Hope staged an anti-coal demonstration outside the provincial capitol building on March 6 as part of activities to observe the Church's Year of the Youth.

The provincial government has also expressed its commitment to fight global warming by pursuing "clean and renewable energy projects" by opposing the establishment of coal-fired power plants.

Governor Alfredo Maranon Jr. has signed an order creating a "renewable energy council" that will formulate measures "for a greener and energy-sufficient province."

The island of Negros in the central Philippines has been a center of renewable energy in the Philippines, hosting solar, hydro, biomass and geothermal plants.

Also on March 6, the non-government Climate Reality Project commended Negros Occidental province for taking a "bold step towards a greener, sustainable future."

"It is our hope that the province serves as a model for others to break free from coal and commit to the fight to solve the climate crisis," the group said in a statement.

The organization also lauded the province's youth groups for "stepping up to the challenge and influencing their leaders to fully embrace renewable energy."

"This is a strong example of how the youth can be a driving force towards developing a climate of change," it added.

The environmental activist group said the sustained advocacy of faith communities led by Bishop Alminaza inspired young people "to stand up and secure a clean and sustainable future."

The prelate, meanwhile, said the advocacy of the young people has been a "big step for their future."

In 2018, a private company announced it was planning to build a 300MW coal-fired power plant in the province but it was opposed by church leaders who have been advocating the use of renewable energy.

Coal-fired power plants are currently the Philippines biggest source of electricity with an existing capacity of 7,419 MW. 

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The Philippines also imports 75 percent of its coal and ranks 10th in the world for planned coal-fired capacity. 

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