SYP Mendoza Park by Gregg YanGoodbye Coal Power as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines has finally launched its  Seize Your Power campaign in Palawan.   This global movement calls on financial institutions, private investors, pension funds and governments to invest in clean and affordable renewable energy sources and divest from dirty and expensive fossil-fuel plants.

Palawan can become an example for the rest of the country by veering from outdated, business-as-usual thinking and embracing future practices – particularly the use of locally-abundant renewable energy resources,” explains WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Lory Tan. “The question has never been whether Palawan should develop – but how it should develop.”

The campaign was launched at 6PM on 22 October at Puerto Princesa City’s Mendoza Park, drawing in over 500 representatives from the city plus the adjacent municipalities of Aborlan and Narra. Palawan was chosen as one of the campaign’s iconic places due to its exceptional levels of biodiversity and biological-productivity. The province’s rich resources are currently threatened by a plan to construct a coal-fired power plant in Aborlan.

Palawan is rapidly developing, thus our rising need for power,” explains Provincial Economic Affairs Adviser Caesar Ventura. “We’re just waiting for renewable energy investors to approach so we can finally fund local projects.”

WWF highlighted Palawan’s plight through a short program featuring testimonials from local renewable energy champions and stakeholders, capped off by cultural dances and a unique sand art performance. The event was supported by the Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE), a coalition of local NGOs pushing for indigenous renewable energy solutions.

Renewable energy projects like mini hydropower plants have been proposed for Puerto Princesa, Narra and Aborlan since 2010. Unfortunately, the mini hydro projects have been unable to obtain contracts with local distributor PALECO. Despite obtaining all other requirements, they have been unable to start generating power for the people of Palawan.

These mini hydro projects will sell cheaper power than the planned coal plant. Why should Palaweños buy expensive, dirty energy when cheaper and cleaner alternatives are already available? The extra expense will not just be incurred by Palaweños, but by the rest of the country,” says Executive Director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) and PACE Lead Convener Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda.

Under the rules of the National Power Corporation’s Special Power Utilities Group (NPC-SPUG), non-grid-connected areas like Palawan shall have portions of their electricity cost subsidized by both the national government and consumers.

First proposed for the municipality of Narra, the coal plant faced such united local opposition that the company was forced to look for a different site – one of which is in the municipality of Aborlan. The proposed site in Narra would have directly impacted the Rasa Wildlife Sanctuary, home of the world’s largest nesting population of the critically-endangered Katala or Philippine cockatoo.

The proposed coal plant would have impeded the flight path of hundreds of Philippine cockatoos from Rasa Island to the mainland, where they fly each morning to forage. This would have had grave impacts on the Katala’s breeding population, putting years of conservation work to protect this iconic species in peril,” says Katala Foundation’s Indira Lacerna-Widmann.

The proposal was subsequently moved to Aborlan, where a massive protest was held on 30 September. Over 1500 people – ranging from Western Palawan University students to members of the academe and local stakeholders – united to oppose the coal plant.

Palawan is currently considered a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve and hosts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Tubbataha Reefs and the Puerto Princesa Underground River. The island was also recently named by the tourism industry as one of the best islands in the world.

WWF’s Seize Your Power Campaign has been launched in numerous countries and highlighted other iconic areas facing threats from fossil fuels such as the Virunga National Park in Africa and the Great Bear Sea in Canada.