Guimaras, the island famous worldwide for its mango industry, has been declared as the first coal-free province in the Visayas.
The declaration of Governor Samuel Gumarin and all the municipal mayors, witnessed and affirmed by residents of the island, coincided with the visit of the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior which is now sailing the Southeast Asian seas on the “Balangaw: The Climate Justice Ship Tour.”
The Guimaras declaration is another affirmation of the province’s vision to be sustainable agri-eco tourism capital of the region after turning away coal-powered electricity and turning to renewable energy sources.
After being devastated by an oil spill from a tanker which sank off Panay Gulf in 2006, the province became active in advocating against fossil fuels.
In 2010, the province took a strong stance against a proposed coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City saying the burning of coal to generate electricity harms the health and economy of its residents and its mango industry.
Advocates against coal-fired power plants cite coal as an impure fuel that produces more greenhouse gas and pollution than an equivalent amount of petroleum or natural gas. This type of power plant is primarily used in developing countries.
“We want to show the world that we don’t need dirty energy to power development. The people of Guimaras have embraced renewables over dirty, polluting energy. We want to show that a sustainable development path, powered by renewable energy, is not only possible, but more viable. And we hope that our humble example will resonate to other provinces and to the world,” Gov. Gumarin said during the Greenpeace visit.
Greenpeace reports how Guimaras has transformed itself into a community that has embraced wind power as their energy of choice.
The province is home to the 54-megawatt San Lorenzo wind farm, the first ever in Visayas, that has been operational since 2014. There are plans for expanding this with an additional 40-megawatts in Barangay Sebaste, Sibunag.
The power generated from the wind farm is directed to the grid and shared with member-consumers across Luzon and Visayas through the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). With the 40-megawatt expansion, the operators of the wind farms expect to be able to also cover the energy demands of neighboring province, Iloilo.
“Our people here in San Lorenzo know the benefits of harnessing the blessings of nature to power our development. Here, we have no coal, thus the absence of all the ills and harms dirty energy brings with it. Today is a victory for our people and our municipality, and I believe, for the whole of Guimaras,” said Ninfa G. Gajo, Mayor of San Lorenzo.
The declaration of a coal-free Guimaras was made during the visit of the Rainbow Warrior, as part of its Climate Justice Ship Tour in the Philippines, which is highlighting the power of people to rise up against the devastating impacts of climate change. The stop in Guimaras gives focus to the initiatives of communities in their resistance against coal and rising up to the renewable energy challenge that should encourage other communities and local government units to do the same.
“The commitment to go coal-free means that the whole of Guimaras is pursuing a sustainable development path and is a clear manifestation of communities themselves taking the lead towards reclaiming their rights to a healthy environment and stable climate,” said Khevin Yu, Climate & Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines.
With the abundance of renewable energy sources in the Philippines, such as wind and solar, coupled with the decreasing prices of renewable energy technology, Greenpeace and other civil society organizations are calling for a halt on new coal and urging the rest of the country to follow the example of Guimaras.
The people of Guimaras have embraced renewables over dirty, polluting energy. We want to show that a sustainable development path, powered by renewable energy, is not only possible, but more viable. And we hope that our humble example will resonate to other provinces and to the world,” Gov. Gumarin said during the Greenpeace visit.
“Additional coal plants means we will have a bigger problem in limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We need to stop coal locally, and this is what Guimaras is doing now,” Yu added.
As the province welcomed the Rainbow Warrior, the ship’s crew and their captain, Hettie Geenen, expressed their appreciation of, and support for, the staunch determination of the people of Guimaras to stand up to the big fossil fuel industry.
“We are now seeing very clearly that those who are least responsible for climate change are bearing the brunt of its impacts. But our visit here to the Philippines has shown us that even a resilient people will not take this sitting down. By the very act of being coal-free, Guimaras sets itself as a national and global leader in ending the age of coal and embracing the benefits of renewables,” Captain Geenen said.
The Rainbow Warrior’s tour in the Philippines, dubbed with the Filipino term for rainbow – “Balangaw: The Climate Justice Ship Tour”, is part of its 5-month “Climate Change & People Power” tour of Southeast Asia.