Church and pro-environment groups have challenged a corporate giant to abandon all coal projects to prove its recent stance on sustainable energy is not “just a publicity stunt.”
On July 11, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) announced that it is “adding more renewables into its power portfolio” with the construction of solar plants and 31 Battery Energy Storage System facilities in 10 locations across the country.
In a statement, SMC president Ramon S. Ang said the move is “to ensure that as we transition to cleaner sources, we will not undermine our commitment to meet the growing demand for affordable and reliable energy.”
Ang said the project is expected to be fully operational by 2023 and “will allow for the integration of over 3,000 MW of intermittent renewable power sources to the Grid.”
The company also announced its plan to build a 1,300 MW liquified natural gas (LNG) combined cycle plant in Batangas City and 8 to 10 small-scale LNG plants in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national director of Caritas Philippines, said his organization welcomes SMC’s initiative to “provide alternative and sustainable solutions to urgent climate concerns.”
The prelate, however, said Caritas Philippines still demands SMC to cancel its applications for coal-fired and fossil gas power plants in many parts of the country.
Bagaforo also urged the corporate giant to “compensate communities that were “affected and destroyed” by its coal, mining, and other extractive industry projects.
This month, the country’s energy department confirmed that SMC canceled three new coal projects in the provinces of Quezon and Cebu with a capacity of 1,500 MW.
However, SMC still has five coal projects across the country, according to the group Power for People.
Gerry Arances, convenor of the group, said SMC “retains its position as a key player in what is left of the national coal pipeline.”
“While the cancelation of the three projects is good, SMC still has five coal-fired power plant projects which can still pollute their host communities and contribute to overpriced electricity for consumers,” he said.
Arances said SMC “is in no place to be claiming sustainability leadership” until it completely abandons dirty energy projects, takes responsibility for detrimental impacts of its operating coal plants, and commits to a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio.
Rodne Galicha, executive director of Living Laudato Si Philippines, said he has “high hopes” over the pronouncement of the corporate giant.
“While we celebrate small eco-actions, we expect a much more ambitious and bolder move from SMC,” he said.
Father Warren Puno, director of the Ecology Ministry of the Diocese of Lucena, said SMC has “already caused irreversible damage” to the environment and to communities with its existing projects.
“SMC must pay for its ecological sins. SMC must do it fast because there is not enough time left. The damage it created is so big that it cannot be fixed by a publicity stunt,” said the priest.