Bishop, green groups hit ‘misleading’ SMC coal ad

Bishop, green groups hit ‘misleading’ SMC coal ad

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos (center) leads various civil society organizations in launching a campaign for “clean and affordable electricity” in Manila, March 7, 2019.

By CBCP News

May 24, 2019

Manila, Philippines

Environmental advocates including a Catholic bishop criticized a power company for supposedly “greenwashing” coal plants.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said the attempt was made through a recent newspaper advertisement which he described as “misleading”.

“It was a deliberate attempt at misleading the public regarding the well-established negative effects of coal,” Alminaza said.

He was referring to San Miguel Corporation’s ad that its Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) coal-fire plant in Limay, Bataan had pollution emissions “way below” those set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The prelate said the ad attempts “to make it seem like pollutants emitted by the plant are virtually insignificant.”

Bishop Alminaza has been helping lead opposition to a 300-megawatt CFB plant that SMC plans to build in San Carlos City.

Dr. Romana de los Reyes, a veteran anti-coal campaigner, said it was not surprising that the Limay plant met DENR standards for Sulfur and Nitogen Oxide “as CFBs are precisely designed to control SOx by combining limestone with coal during combustion, while the plant’s low combustion temperature mitigates NOx emissions”.

“However, there is no report nor monitoring of the amount of CO2 released by the plant,” she noted. “The amount of CO2 emitted must be considered as it is the most notorious force causing the climate breakdown we are experiencing now.”

Energy think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) pointed out important information SMC has suspiciously left out in their advertisement.

“A more holistic way of presenting the data would include a diagram showing the scope of the power plant’s affected areas, and where the CFB plant stands compared to other power plants across the country,” said CEED Legal, Policy, and Research head Atty. Avril De Torres.

“This will surely reveal just how vast and far-reaching the effects of coal are, with its impacts which go beyond just air emissions,” she said.

De Torres added that other aspects of coal plants such as ground clearing, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity should be incorporated in the graphics to give a clearer picture of the effects of coal.

“Perhaps they should also show pictures of children and adults plagued by respiratory, skin, and cardiovascular diseases caused by particulate matter and other chemicals released into the air and water by San Miguel’s plant in Limay, Bataan,” she said.

In 2017, residents called for the suspension of the Limay plant after videos showed coal ash being disposed near their communities.

De los Reyes said “a 2019 study of ash ponds of 265 US coal plants revealed that the nearby groundwater had unsafe levels of nerve-damaging lithium, and neurotoxin arsenic, which impair a child’s brain development and cause cancer.”

“This is on top of the lead, cadmium, and chromium generally found in coal ash and mercury released by coal plants, often in the form of acid aerosols.”