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Negros Occidental bishop slams DOE's ‘apparent bias’ for coal

Diocese of San Carlos Bishop Gerard Alminaza on Monday criticized the Department of Energy's (DOE) for its "apparent bias" for coal-fired power plants and urged investors in the energy sector to support renewable energy instead.

"As [Negros Occidental’s] coal-free status is being threatened by the incoming provincial administration, we are alarmed as the DOE is not giving policymakers and the business sector the whole picture in terms of the costs attached to coal-fired power plants, and why it is not the better choice as opposed to renewable energy," Alminaza said in a statement released by the Power for People Coalition.

The statement also claimed that Negros Occidental Governor-elect Eugenio Jose Lacson had said that he would not honor the ordinance declaring the province a coal-free province.

"In encouraging energy investments, the DOE should not just focus on bringing in new energy sources, but also the role of investments in improving the grid system and energy storage in Visayas to maximize and encourage more renewable energy sources," Alminaza said.

"In failing to do so, it is basically implying that the Visayas should look to massive coal-fired power plants which harm our environment, health, and worsens the climate crisis."

Further, he said that the DOE should recognize the country's commitment to the Paris Agreement which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit the rise in global temperatures to below two degrees Celsius.

"I’m disappointed that in their strategic planning they don’t ‘think outside the box’ but are still stuck with the outmoded business model belonging to the first industrial revolution," Alminaza said.

San Miguel Corporation was eyeing the construction of a 300 MW coal plant in San Carlos City, according to the coalition.

GMA News Online reached out to Lacson and the Department of Energy for comment but had yet to receive a response as of posting time.

Meanwhile, energy think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances said that previous experiences with coal-fired powerplants in Luzon and Mindanao no longer vouched for its affordability and neither did it provide energy security.

“In Mindanao, the rush of coal-fired power plants led to a surge in the prices of electricity, as consumers are obligated to pay for the abundance of coal plants providing not just base load of electricity, but also the peaking and intermediate loads," Arances said.

“Meanwhile, Luzon has suffered increased rates and power interruptions because of the underperformance of coal-fired power plants which underwent unscheduled maintenance shutdowns,” he added. — Dona Magsino/DVM, GMA News