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Philippines

Church groups join protest against Manila's coal dust stockpiles

Urban poor exposed to dangerous health hazards, activists say

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: December 10, 2015 10:55 PM GMT
Church groups join protest against Manila's coal dust stockpiles

David Calderon, 76, sits by the window of his house, a few meters from a coal dust stockpile, on Dec. 11. (Photo by Vincent Go)

On the eve of the culmination of the climate summit in Paris, urban poor residents and church groups in Manila joined hands in protesting the operation of a coal dust storage facility in the middle of the Philippine capital.

"It is terrible that these poor people are exposed to such dangerous health hazards," said Notre Dame Sister Anne Brittain. 

The facility, which stands in the middle of Manila's impoverished district of Tondo, had been ordered closed by the government earlier in 2015 due to the opposition of residents.

"It is really unfortunate that they are operating again," Sister Brittain, a British missionary in the Philippines for 15 years, told ucanews.com.

The government has allowed the facility to reopen in September despite opposition by residents who complained that coal dust has affected their health.

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"It is rather timely that as people in power talk about climate change and environmental degradation, we highlight the human condition," said Sister Elizabeth Burgo of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.

"These dehumanizing situations must be addressed," she said. "We cannot tolerate the double talk of these people in power."

A coal dust stockpile in Manila's Tondo district. (Photo by Vincent Go)

 

The protest in Manila came on the eve of the culmination of the Paris climate summit on Dec. 12. The meeting aims to come up with a global agreement to curb global warming.

Sister Burgo said that as the Paris meeting ends, "one thing that world leaders should not miss out is the human dimension of industrial operations."

"The supposed development that purports to uplift poor people's situation are in fact the factor that kills and induces the sufferings of people," she said.

Emmie de Jesus of the women's group Gabriela said the presence of the facility has worsened the situation of the poor people of the area.

"People who make a living selling food complained that nobody is buying because of the dust," said De Jesus.

Residents complained that when it rains, black residue settles on the rood of their houses.

The facility in Manila had been keeping stockpiles of coal dust imported by La Farge, a transnational corporation, since 2014.

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