Death came swiftly suddenly but not it was not unexpected. One day in October 2011the motor bike pulled into the open entrance in front of the church rectory of Italian missionary, environmentalist and human rights defender Father Fausto Tentorio. When he came out of the rectory the killer pulled out his gun and shot the priest dead and drove away. Another shocking murder of a man who gave his life defending the ancestral lands of the indigenous people wanted by the mining company. Crime solved, the trigger was most likely pulled by a unknown mining tycoon.
Hundreds of environmentalists defending the rights of the people to their ancestral homelands forests and agricultural lands that are being stolen by the rich and the powerful, have been killed according to Global Witness, a non-government agency. In the Philippines, as many as fifty Filipino environmental defenders have been killed in recent years allegedly by the money moguls behind the logging, mining and power plant industries.
The UN environmental summit in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil has been declared a failure fizzling out like a damp squib with an insignificant document that failed to reach a clear binding agreement to curb global warming and end fossil fuel for energy production. It has achieved practically nothing to curb CO2 gasses and other harmful human activity that is causing global warming.
It was supposed to get national leaders to agree to a sustainable green energy agenda for the future. The super rich industrialists and multinational oil and fossil fuel corporations have played a sinister role behind the scenes to stymie any progress towards a cleaner safer and happier world. Most come from a financial culture where “Greed is Good” and the only green they want to see is on a thousand dollar bill.
In the Philippines, the voices of the many people demanding an end to the construction of coal powered plants are being ignored and even protesters are receiving threats. In Subic Bay, the entire bay and its towns are threatened by the proposed 600 MW coal plant project of R.P. Energy a consortium with powerful political connections in the cabinet of President Aquino. I pray that his energy policy will favor renewable energy and not coal and fossil fuel. His great legacy of anti-corruption might be sullied by these influential industrialists. He must serve the best interests of the people not the profit-making plans of the plutocracy.
Industrialists and financing corporations lobby heavily to influence governments to continue the fossil fuel fiasco like power plants that poison the people in many countries. In the Philippines, the Secretary of Energy is pushing President Aquino into the furnace of coal fired power plants like fury. The honorable secretary has denied he is influenced in anyway by his past position in the private power generation sector.
I pray for him to continue being good and faithful to the people and resist the pressures and temptations to give into the ploys of former associates, employers in the power generation industry to whom he may have an debt of honor (utang na Loob). His greater debt of honor is to the President and the people who elected him and who want a clean healthy environment.
The Secretary of Energy is reported to want eleven coal fired power plants all over the country. Lower cost renewable sustainable electricity can be generated from volcanic heat through Geothermal plants and get lithium as a side product to make powerful batteries that can run clean electric cars. However mysteriously heavy import taxes are imposed on geothermal equipment. Almost none on mining and coal burning equipment.
The Lopez group of companies First Gen Corporation is offering to construct two 300 megawatt hydro-plants on the Angat and Norzagaray rivers respectively. Other companies offer clean renewable and solar and wind power to make electricity.
The Philippines should end the black and dirty coal policy. The proposed Subic Bay coal plant is mired in allegedly corrupt deals with the former government. They will only pay one million pesos a year in rent. These plants that are belching daily poison gasses and ash into the air we breath are killing people. There is no long term solution to dispose of the millions of tons of deadly semi-toxic ash and the deadly mercury and uranium pollutants will remain forever. The Lord of the Cosmos has given us a beautiful planet, we are morally bound to protect and cherish it and all living creatures.
Fr. Shay Cullen is President/CEO of Preda Foundation, Inc., a Philippine human rights social development organization working for 34 years through fair trade practices to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in society and overcome injustice and poverty. There are 88 professional Filipino staff implementing the 12 projects of Preda (see www.preda.org).