No to Coal-Fired Power Plants Join the One Mindanao Energy Cooperative

OPINION
By ORLAN R. RAVANERA
March 3, 2020

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The year 2014 was the formative year of the One Mindanao Energy Cooperative, the first of its kind in the Philippine, if not, in the cooperative world as it is one to save Mother Earth from climate change and from ill-health. Such trail-blazing move of the cooperative leaders in Mindanao was so amazing that it got the full-hearted support of no less the nationally known environmental advocate Congressman from Oriental Mindoro, Cong. Ray Umali. Despite his very busy schedule, the good Congressman found time to travel to the different regions of Mindanao during the holding of regional cooperative power summits, firmly supporting the cooperatives’ advocacy to own and manage the Agus Pulangi Power Complex.  And rightfully so!
    
They asked, why must Mindanawons suffer power shortages when the island oozes with watersheds that can generate enough hydro-electric power for the people? They contended that the reason for these shortages is that the existing hydro generation plants have not been well maintained, thus, not optimized. Because of this, six coal-fired power plants will be established in different regions of Mindanao which are already banned in other countries as “coal burning power plants are making people sick and shortening their lives- thousands of them,”
    
“Burning coal is leading cause of smog, acid rain and global warming,” the Union of Concerned Scientists said. That, “In an average year, a typical coal plant generates 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the primary human cause of global warming-as much carbon dioxides as cutting down 161 million of trees; 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain that damages forest, lakes and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs; and 500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma and premature death; and so many toxic  chemicals such as 225 pound arsenic which will cause cancer.”
    
Well, that is what a typical coal plant can do, typical meaning just around 100 megawatts. The six coal-fired power plants that are being established all over Mindanao have a total megawatts of 2,167. These are not acceptable to the people of Mindanao especially to the 4 million cooperative members who are environmentally conscious.
    
Those big capitalists and their political cohorts who are putting-up these are saying that coal-fired power plants are clean. That’s oxymoron! NO such thing as clean coal.
    
Yes, more than 8,000 cooperatives in Mindanao are serving notice to one and all that they are collectively opposing the putting-up of coal fired power plants. As a countervailing measure, hydro-power plants in Mindanao must be well-maintained and optimized to cater to the increasing needs of power. Yes, they are binding themselves into a One Mindanao Energy Cooperative to own and manage the Agus Pulangi Hydro Power Complex. They are financially capable as their combined assets total more than one hundred billion pesos. But more than that, they are capable of protecting and preserving the watershed from which the power comes from.
    
In those power summits, I introduced the participants to the Honorable Congressman Ray Umali, underscoring that many participants came from the cooperatives of our Indigenous People who are living in the forest ecosystem, which is considered the invisible water dam. Our cooperatives are committed to maintain the integrity of these watersheds and if the dams are silted, are willing to do de-siltation. That is the advantage of cooperativizing these hydro power plants.
    
We must also understand that there are those, which are beyond the commerce of men-power, water, air- because these are means to life. If controlled by a few capitalists, they perpetuate their stranglehold of the economy and perpetuate their massive rakings, knowing that those who control power also control business. No less than our beloved President Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte said that if it is a means to life like water, it must not be used to rake money by the oligarchs as what two elite families are doing in the business of water in Manila. 
    
Thus, it must rightfully be owned and managed by the people themselves through their cooperatives so that they can exercise that God given right of decision making, thus, democratizing wealth and power. In that way, the people will be empowered to have access and control over their resources and utilities. Let us be mindful that poverty in Mindanao is rooted in the powerlessness of the inhabitants to own and manage these resources and utilities which are controlled only by a few elite thus, the exclusivity of growth and development. The call for inclusive growth primarily means that resources and utilities be managed and controlled by the people themselves.
    
In my sorties around Mindanao during the regional power summits, it was amazing to see an awakened citizenry, showing their collective force and ready to take responsibility. Yes, it is about time to put power where it rightfully belongs, that is, to the people. This time, I am not just talking of political or economic power but electric power!
    
And there is no choice! It is renewable energy owned and managed by the people through their cooperatives and NEVER coal-fired power plants which are considered a Curse to the people and the environment! In this light, let our people Awake!
    
Let us all join hands to protect Mother Earth as we are now in the cataclysmic stage due to climate change which will be worsened if coal-fired power plants will be established in Mindanao. Indeed, cooperativism is the countervailing force against climate change!!


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