Air pollution in the country is a “health crisis in the making”, caused mainly by the 28 coal-fired power plants that have resulted in 630 air pollution related deaths every year.
“The real danger for air pollution on our health is long term exposure. The longer we are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution, the higher the risk. The sooner we could address this problem, and the sooner we could control emissions…the better it will be for our health, the more reduced the cost would be,” Isabela Suarez, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said in a recent interview.
Although the Department of Energy has announced a moratorium on accepting new applications for greenfield coal power plants, those under construction and with approved permits can still proceed. Suarez said the country would remain dependent on coal energy in the next 40 years as such power plants are still in the pipeline. Those proposed plants will be responsible for 26,000 premature deaths among Filipinos over their lifetime.
The most vulnerable to the effects of air pollution are elderly, children, people with pre-existing conditions, as well as pregnant women. Suarez urged government to focus on renewable energy to prevent these deaths.
“It is time to go all in on renewable energy…It is really a no brainer when we look at these health costs and these economic costs, they have long been ignored or haven’t been prioritized in our energy transition,” Suarez noted.
Coal power plants continue to be operated and built despite the known health and environmental risks, only because government allows those. There are valid reasons for this, but given the many disadvantages of coal, it may be high time for us to consider going cold turkey on coal and go all in on maximizing renewable energy sources since that’s where we are headed anyway.*