Church leaders in the province of Quezon have filed a “Petition for Writ of Continuing Mandamus with prayer for Temporary Environmental Protection Order” against the Philippine Environment department over a 1,200 MW coal-fired power plant project in the town of Atimonan.
The petition was filed on behalf of the residents of Atimonan town by Monsignor Emmanuel Ma. Villareal and Father Warren Puno for various pro-environment groups and clean energy advocacy groups.
The petitioners expressed dismay over the “inaction” of the various government agencies to the concerns of the residents.
“We have been suffering for so long over the destruction of the environment,” said Rodante Andaya of the group Kaakbay Atimonan, adding that deforestation in the project site continued despite the complaints filed by various pro-environment groups.
The complaints stemmed from the alleged violation of the power plant proponents of the Environmental Compliance Certificate and the tree-cuttings without permits.
“His Holiness Pope Francis said that the Earth is our home and we should protect it,” said Father Puno in a statement.
“But as much as we want to do our part and fight for the environment here in our home province of Quezon, what can we do if the [Environment department], the primary government agency supposed to help us in this task, does not do anything while trees are felled for a power plant which will belch even more pollution to destroy the environment and the health of Atimonan residents?” said the priest.
“We hope that the courts will be able to do what the [department] has been unwilling to do,” said Father Puno, who also serves as parish priest of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Atimonan.
Residents of the town have been fighting against the construction of a power plant in the area due to its alleged use of highly polluting coal, which the groups said will negatively impact the environment and the health of the host community.
“We can see that even before a coal power plant is built and becomes operational, it already destroys the environment, and our government does nothing,” said Avril de Torres, head of Research, Policy, and Legal at the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development.
“Coal is expensive, unreliable, and toxic to people, plants, and animals,” she said. “We hope that the court will listen to the plea of the people of Atimonan and enforce the law to protect their environment.”