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Lenient and unambitious

Without salient changes in emission standards, emissions of sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide from coal-fired power plants in the Philippines and four other countries are projected to triple by 2030, leading to an estimated 70,000 deaths in the region, a new policy analysis report by Clean Air Asia showed.

Increased coal dependence in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam will require more stringent environmental and public health safeguards from the adverse impacts of coal power plants.

In the Philippines, the Clean Air Asia report highlighted that emissions standards have not been updated since the Clean Air Act became effective in 2000. “In particular, the Philippines has the most lenient sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides emission standards,” it said. The study also showed our country falling behind in the stringent standards for particulate matter, a mix of solid particles and liquid droplets that are hazardous to human health and the environment.

The Philippines’ emission standards for nitrogen oxide, even for coal plants operating after the Clean Air Act was passed, were still 10 times more lenient than those of India and five times more lenient than those of Indonesia. The country was also found to have the most lenient sulfur oxide emissions standards among the five countries.

“A review of Philippine industry emission standards has been underway since 2018 and is ongoing; however, no timeline for implementation has been discussed,” the report said as it called for the fast tracking of the development of more stringent emissions standards for both new and existing coal power plants.

The report scored the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for remaining unambitious in its mandate to ensure clean air for all Filipinos, setting the bar low in determining the responsibilities of coal power plant operators.

The country, with 22 new coal projects in the pipeline expected to result in a 135-percent increase in coal capacity, certainly has its reasons for allowing coal to play a significant role in its energy mix but government cannot continue to allow these facilities to pollute our air and endanger public health with lenient standards and unambitious goals.

How much longer will our government give dirty coal power a free pass by failing in its obligation to continuously update and improve our minimum standards for clean air?*

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