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Palawan: will coal kill the Philippine’s final frontier of ecology?

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Palawan is a remarkable island in the Philippines, and it’s under threat from a proposed coal-fired energy plant.

PalawanWhat’s so special about Palawan?

Palawan is a stunning island, and it’s one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. Here are a few more reasons why Palawan deserves your attention:

Nowhere else on Earth is home to flying squirrels, stink badgers, Palawan bear cats, Balabac mouse deer, Calamian deer, Palawan porcupines and Palawan hornbills. These creatures can only be found on Palawan.

Two World Heritage Sites and one of the Seven Wonders of Nature can be found on Palawan: the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and Puerto Princesa Underground River. Tubbataha is at the centre of the Coral Triangle and is home to more than 600 species of reef fish and 380 hard coral species.

This iconic landscape features long stretches of coast, rolling hills, tropical rainforests, tall mountain ranges and winding rivers. The island has received international recognition from the tourism industry as one of the most beautiful islands on Earth, and Palawan also enjoys the status of a UNESCO Man and Biosphere reserve.

Fossil fuel use threatens the pristine environment

There are two proposed sites for a coal plant in Palawan.

Wherever the site is located, it will have negative consequences for Palawan. Importing coal to the island also poses risks such as spillages and sedimentation, while ship groundings can scar slow-growing coral reefs and reduce their ability to provide local coastal communities with seafood.

The first site is in front of the Rasa Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the largest nesting and breeding population of the critically endangered Philippine cockatoo, as well as the threatened grey imperial pigeon, several marine turtle species and the dugong. The plant’s tall structures and wires will increase the risks of collision and electrocution, resulting in a decline in the breeding population.

The second site is near the Malunao fish sanctuary, a mangrove area where local people live and rely primarily on fishing for their livelihood. Polluted thermal waste water would be discharged into seas and other bodies of water, heavily impacting marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Renewable energy is a viable alternative today

Palawan has an alternative. Instead of turning to dirty, expensive and out-dated fossil fuels for their energy, the people of Palawan can depend on wind, solar and biomass sources.

A proposed hydropower project is expected to generate as much as three times more jobs per MW than the coal projects, and it would save an estimated 750 million pesos in fossil fuel costs and avoid 26,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Do you want your money spent on fossil fuels?

Old habits die hard. Perhaps that’s why governments and financial institutions continue to invest in out-dated energy projects. Fossil fuels not only pollute our environment; they’re also proven to contribute to global warming, so it’s remarkable that so much money is still ploughed into this dirty energy.

Renewable energy is here and now. Investments in renewables are growing rapidly, but more must be done to prevent the destruction of icons like Palawan, and you can help.

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