NARRA, Palawan — Town mayor Gerandy Danao met with anti-coal protesters here Tuesday after they held a protest assembly, stating he wanted to hear what they have to say and to help him in decision-making.
“I am not here to say yes or no to coal,” he said. “What I’m trying to say is if it’s advantageous for us, then I’ll give it a go signal. But if not, we’ll stop it.”
Mayor Danao admitted he lacks scientific knowledge about coal power and promised to sit down with local environmental scientists to educate himself to make the “right decision.”
He also agreed to hold public hearings as suggested by the anti-coal group, with more local stakeholders present.
“Yun ang tamang gawin. Hindi natin basta-basta payagan yan. Lahat tayo nagulat diyan. Let’s subject it again to a public hearing,” he said.
Danao also said he is open to exploring other environment-friendly alternatives like solar and hydropower.
“Kung may mas makakabuti, bakit hindi? Subukan natin yan,” he said.
Before Danao was mayor, he was a goat farmer and a fisherman. He has ended the more than 30-year rule of the Demaala family in Narra town.
Seventy-year-old businesswoman and resident of Narra, Merly Lagan, said this decision is an early test for Danao could either make or break his political career.
“He should be educated and informed about this coal-fired power plant. After that, it’s his decision,” she said. “It can either make or break him.”
Narra residents gathered Tuesday in solidarity with the National Day of Action against Coal, and the Global Climate Strike to show their opposition against the proposed coal-fired power plant and call on Danao not to issue building and operation permits to the proponent DMCI Power Corporation.
Joel Pelayo, the convener of the No to Coal Movement in Narra, said they oppose the 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant because “it is hazardous to the health of the residents and the environment of Narra.”
Norlita Sevilla, from Indigenous Peoples Organization (IPO) in Antipuluan, Narra said they cannot afford the damage it will cause their health if the coal-fired power plant pursues, “Silang mga nag-endorso kaya nila magpagamot. Papaano kaming mga mahihirap?”
“Ngayon nga mag [usok] galing sa Indonesia, naapektuhan tayo, nahihirapan huminga, paano pa kapag andiyan na ang coal plant?” she said.
Sixty-one year old Mila Nimfa Tan said she is opposing the coal-fired power plant not for her, but for the next generation, “Matanda na ako, hindi na para sa akin ang laban na ito. Para sa mga pamangkin at mga apo na natin ito.”
“Kawawa naman sila kung maduming hangin ang ipapamana natin sa kanila,” she said.
Since 2012, both Tan and Sevilla joined the protests when it was first proposed in Narra, and in Aborlan.
Environmental lawyer Grizelda Mayo-Anda said this activity aims to strike public curiosity.
“Para ipakita na lumalawak na rin ‘yong kamulatan ukol sa coal, at ‘yong kamulatan na ‘yon kailangang madala sa isang hakbang. Sana ‘yong signature campaign natin sana lumawak pa at masuportahan pa,” Anda said.
Save Palawan Movement, Save Aborlan from Evil, and Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy, among others that oppose the coal plant have claimed that apart from negating any advances made in addressing climate change, coal power projects are dangerous to human health as it releases a number of airborne toxins and pollutants, among them mercury, lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and other particulates.
Other similar protests were simultaneously held in different parts of the island province, namely in front of PALECO, at Western Philippine University Puerto Princesa and Aborlan campuses, Narra Parkway, and all over the country in solidarity with the National Day of Action Against Coal and the Global Climate Strike.
DMCI, however, declined to give a comment on the matter on a phone call with Palawan News, Wednesday.