Activists stage a protest outside the Environment Department in Manila on Sept. 6 to dramatize their call for an end to the use of coal as an energy source. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
Environmental groups in the Philippines have marked the Catholic Church's "Season of Creation" this year with weeklong demonstrations against dirty energy sources in the country.
Residents from communities near coal mines held simultaneous protest rallies in different parts of the country to dramatize their call for the government to end its "coal obsession."
Gerry Arances, executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, said the government should hear the "cry of the people" affected by the use of coal as an energy source.
"The rate of disapproval of using coal as our source of energy is clearly equal to the intensity of the impacts and sufferings of the people," said Arances.
He added that it is time for the country to "shift to clean, affordable and renewable energy that can aid people to live their lives better."
A survey by pollster Pulse Asia last month revealed that 89 percent of Filipinos prefer the use of renewable energy rather than dirty energy sources such as coal and fossil fuels.
At present, the Philippines has 28 operational coal-fired power plants and another 28 proposed coal projects across the country.
The group Power for People Coalition said that aside from health issues, the use of dirty energy sources has negative impacts on consumers.
It claimed that electricity prices in the southern Philippines "soared" after five new coal-fired power plants became operational.
"Electricity in some parts of Mindanao is higher than the price in Metro Manila, amounting to almost US$0.24 per kilowatt-hour," the group said in a statement.
On Sept. 1, the Catholic Church marked the start of the Season of Creation, an annual celebration of "prayer and action to protect creation and to worship the creator." The season runs until Oct. 4, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology.
On Sept. 1, church people in the Philippines staged a Walk for Creation to mark the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the opening of the season.
Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas Philippines, reiterated the message of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, Laudato si', during the event. "We cannot sacrifice the environment over profit that only few would benefit," said Father Gariguez.
Father John Leydon, convener of the Global Catholic Climate Movement in the Philippines, told ucanews.com that the "Season of Creation is an invitation to worship the creator."
"During the Lenten season, we worship God as our savior. At Christmas, we worship Him as a redeemer. This season, we worship Him as our creator," said Father Leydon.
The priest stressed that to worship the creator "people should put value on all creation and protect the common home."