Members of a Catholic mission in the mountains of Davao del Sur launched an awareness campaign today to counter government efforts to persuade tribal communities to approve the construction of coal-fired power stations. According to Father Joey Gánio Evangelista of the Missionaries of Jesus, village officials and government health workers have been making the rounds since July, encouraging people in Malita to sign a “consultation” sheet. To give people a clear idea about the effects of coal on health and the environment and to allow them to reach decision having digested all the facts, Father Evangelista said the Missionaries of Jesus, in coordination with the social action office of Digos diocese, has decided to conduct seminars for basic Christian and tribal communities outlining what they need to know. “Those who were asked to sign did not get any adequate explanation,” Father Evangelista said. “They were simply told a coal-fired plant in Malita would provide more electricity for citizens, generate more employment and increase the revenue of the municipal government.” The priest said “No information whatsoever was given on the adverse effects of a coal-fired plant on human health or the environment.” Beneficiaries of the national government’s conditional cash-transfer program and cash-for-work program reported they were asked to sign the “consultation” sheet,” he added. Many of them thought signing the document was a requirement to get welfare benefits, he said. “People were hoodwinked and some coerced into signing.” Father Evangelista said he is afraid the signatures already gathered could be used in the future to make false claims that the indigenous people of Malita have been consulted and that they approve of the plan to build coal-fired power plants.