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Clean Air

September 8, 2015

Legarda: ‘We deserve clean air!’
The kind of life the future generations will have would be dictated upon not by economic breakthroughs, but by the changing climate in the years and decades to come.
From the way government today is behaving, Filipinos, a century from now, will most likely live in extreme economic difficulties brought about by adverse effects of climate change.
Among our national leaders, the only serious voice pushing for priority attention on environmental concerns is Senator Loren Legarda. The bad part here is, it seems, other national leaders are pretending to be listening at best to Legarda’s persistent call for attention to the threats of changing weather patterns.
Not only are most of our political leaders giving climate change lip service, they are pushing for economic projects that would destroy the environment, like coal-fired power plants.

Air pollution is major killer worldwide
Air pollution is becoming the world’s number one killer. In China alone, it is reported that about 4,000 people die every day due to air pollution. This is no surprise as China’s power source is mostly coal-fired.
The World Health Organization reported that worldwide, eight million people die from air pollution every year.
Legarda, the country’s leading voice in the fight for clean air, said putting the Philippine energy sector squarely on coal will soon have irreversible impacts on the country’s vulnerability to climate change.
Expressing alarm, the Senator said “we should act quickly to prevent such incident – severe air pollution – from happening in our country.”
“The inevitable will happen should we not stop our preference in the use of coal to power our industries and homes,” she added.
Since 2010, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued a total of 21 Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECC) to as many coal-fired power plants. All over the country, 52 new coal-fired power plants are under construction.
Reports from the Department of Energy said coal gets the highest share at 32% of the national energy mix, prompting Legarda to issue a warning on our country’s vulnerability to climate change.
Industry observers say that while the government is calling for clean air, following some laws, like the Clean Air Act, its actions does not support the law.
“But this is not a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,” observers said, adding that this is more of a case of big business flexing its muscle.
Power supply is one of the biggest milking cows of big businesses like the group of Manny V. Pangilinan, now in control of Meralco, the country’s biggest power distributor. Other big names that have invested in the power sector include Henry Sy, Ramon S. Ang, and the Aboitiz family.
Cost of power in the Philippines is one of the highest in the world, even when power generation is mostly fired by coal, which is ironically one of the cheapest sources of generating energy.
The power sector, abusing the environment and product pricing, needs close watching. Vigilance against abuses in this industry is most important to our country.
Last week, Legarda called on the youth to get more actively involved in climate change issues, noting that they have the greatest stake in the sustainability of our country and our planet Earth. The call for youth involvement came after the Senator called on other sectors to be vigilant in protecting the environment.
In her talk during a climate change youth-based forum, she said “it is important that you make your choices heard and discuss issues such as sustainable economic development and climate resilience because they will define your future and even your children’s future.”
She added that climate change is the greatest humanitarian challenge of our time. Considering its impacts, we should now begin calling it the “climate crisis” as it affects food, water, settlements, jobs, livelihood, human welfare, safety, security, poverty reduction, economic growth, and, consequently, our overall pursuit of sustainable development.
Meanwhile, the Senator cited Pope Francis for leading the Catholics in observance of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation last September 1.
Legarda, a UN champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, said she hopes that the day of prayer will ignite an environment-friendly lifestyle and climate action among Catholics.
She called on the people to deeply reflect “on the way we have lived and examine our ways that harm the environment so we can immediately change for the good.”
While Legarda is pushing hard for the government to walk the talk on saving the environment from the abuses of big business, advocacy groups are still wary that profit and corporate greed will be a tough nut for Legarda to crack.
The bright side is the Senator is not the type who gives up easy. Her latest warning to government to stop using coal in generating power brings her advocacy a notch higher in her fight against corporate giants.