MANILA - Environmental advocates on Friday urged the Supreme Court to stop government from issuing new permits for the construction and operation of coal-fired power plants until guidelines and standards for ambient air quality and emissions are thoroughly reviewed and revised, and air monitoring equipment put in place.
In a 64-page petition, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Energy (DOE) were accused of failure to perform their respective mandates to lessen the country's dependence on fossil fuels and dirty energy.
The petitioners were Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), Inc., Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Inc., Sanlakas Inc., Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), and several individuals from areas with coal-fired power plants.
They urged the high court to compel the two government agencies to perform their duties and obligations to enforce environmental laws and rules and regulations as "the vanguards of energy security and environmental sustainability."
The petition pointed out that only 25.9 percent of power generated in the Philippines came from coal in 2008, when Republic Act (RA) No. 9513, also known as the Renewable Energy Act, took effect. In the same year, 32.2 percent came from natural gas, 33.9 percent from renewable energy, and 8 percent from oil.
Petitioners lamented how coal's share in the power mix in 2016 has almost doubled at 47.7 percent, adding that as projected by the DOE itself, coal's share will reach 70 percent by 2013.
Petitioners urged the SC to order the DENR to do the following:
-- immediately review or revise ambient air quality guideline values, emission standards for stationary sources, and effluent standards;
-- disclose the coal plant companies operating without Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems (CEMS) and Continuous Opacity Monitoring System (COMS) and to institute proceedings against them;
-- install proper ambient air monitoring equipment;
-- delineate and designate attainment and non-attainment areas, at least in areas with existing and proposed coal plants;
-- issue the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) Rules; and,
-- establish the Green Energy Options Program.
As for the DOE, petitioners asked the SC to compel the department to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and comply with the Philippines' commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
"As a direct result of the failure of DENR and DOE to do their duties specifically enjoined by law and their respective offices, the country
has had to rely on dirty energy generated by coal plants that have been operating without proper standards, without accountability, and without regard to their adverse impact on the environment and the people's health," the petition read.
"Unless this honorable court intervenes, the Philippines will be locked in to costly and harmful coal contracts for generations to come, despite the existence of renewable energy that is cleaner, cheaper, and better."