Some of the 2,000 Negrense students who participated in the “Youth Strike for Negros” rally, calling on the provincial government to immediately declare Negros Occidental as coal-free, at the Provincial Capitol Grounds in Bacolod City Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Erwin P. Nicavera)
BACOLOD CITY -- Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. has issued an executive order (EO) declaring the entire province of Negros Occidental as coal-free, amid the ongoing protests against the proposed coal-fired plant in San Carlos City.
The governor announced his move before an estimated 2,000 Negrense youth who joined the “Youth Strike for Negros” protest rally, held at the Provincial Capitol Grounds here on Wednesday afternoon.
EO No. 19-08, signed by Marañon on March 6, is an order declaring the province as a source of clean and renewable energy.
“It is about the future. Climate change is here already, so we must protect our environment, we must conserve,” the governor said, adding that environmental protection is “inter-generational” and concerns everybody.
Marañon said that before coming up with the order, he tasked the Provincial Environment Management Office to make a thorough study on coal-fired power plants.
In the order, he cited Local Government Code of 1991, stating that the provincial governor shall adopt adequate measures to safeguard and conserve land, mineral, marine, forest and other resources in the province in coordination with mayors of component localities.
He also mentioned the Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008, which provides that it is the state’s policy to encourage the development and utilization of RE sources as tools to effectively prevent or reduce harmful emissions and thereby balance the goals of economic growth and development with the protection of health and environment.
“More and more countries have been decommissioning coal-fired powered plants due to the damage it has caused to the environment and in fact have been shifting to RE projects,” he said.
San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, who also attended the “Youth Strike for Negros” rally, said they are thankful and elated that the governor made a very clear stand in favor of their advocacy for a clean province.
“That’s a good affirmation in itself,” said Alminaza, a staunch supporter of a coal-free Negros movement.
Alminaza, along with three other bishops in Negros, had earlier issued a collegial pastoral statement to protect the environment by opposing the reported proposal of SMC Global Power Holdings Corp. to develop a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in San Carlos City.
Wednesday's protest rally, attended by students and youth from different schools and parishes under the Diocese of San Carlos and some from Bacolod City, was considered the biggest youth-led mobilization on climate change and anti-coal initiative in the country, according to The Climate Change Reality Project.
Krishna Ariola, lead convenor of Youth for Climate Hope, said they have been holding protests for four consecutive Wednesdays now to express their anti-coal sentiments.
She added that they are calling for the immediate action of the Provincial Board to support the proposed ordinance submitted last October by Marañon, seeking to declare the entire Negros Occidental a coal-free, clean energy, and environment-friendly province.
Moreover, the governor said that since the proposal has been with the Provincial Board for quite some time already, the board members should vote on it so the public would know who are in favor or against the measure.
Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said they are not delaying the process, but said the committees on energy and environment are still conducting a series of hearings related to the proposed ordinance. (PNA)