ELAW Partners in the Philippines are celebrating an exciting interim victory in their case fighting the dumping of coal ash.

Judge Marilyn Ligura-Yap of the Mandaue City Regional Trial Court (RTC) invoked a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) for the duration of the current court case. The March 16 order requires the Toledo Power Corp., Cebu Energy Development Corp. and/or Global Business Power Corp. to dispose of their coal ash only in the landfill in Landahan, Toledo City. The order also allows the Korean Power Corp.-Salcon Power Corp. (Kepco-SPC) to dispose of their coal ash using only the ash ponds on the plant’s own premises in Barangay Colon, Naga City.

Ash lagoon, West Pans, UK, where coal ash is stored prior to being carried away for use in other industries. PHOTO: Richard Webb

The case in question is a lawsuit that was filed in June 2010 by Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc., Central Visayas Farmers Development Center, Central Visayas Farmers Development Center, Central Visayas Fisherfolks Development Center, and concerned residents of Toledo City and Naga City. The case began shortly after the discovery that coal ash, known to be toxic, was being dumped by the truckload in empty fields, private lots, and neighborhoods in south Cebu. No one claimed responsibility.

Gloria (Golly) Estenzo Ramos is an ELAW Partner and co-founder of Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc. Golly called the order a “strong signal” for coal power plants operators, local government units and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to comply with the requirements of the law. She was quoted in the Sun Star of Cebu:

“No community or neighborhood deserves to be made a dumping ground of wastes, more so coal ash which contains mercury, cadmium and arsenic like the samples that were tested,” she said.

In August 2010, the court issued a three-day Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO). In November 2010, the judge and members of both parties visited the dumping sites in Naga and Toledo. Samples of coal ash were taken and tested for toxicity. Photographs and extensive notes were collected.

Judge Yap said she was practicing the “precautionary principle.”

“The disposal of coal ash in the Balili Property will endanger the growth and sustenance of the mangrove trees that thrive along the coastline in and serve as natural buffer from severe changes of weather conditions such as storms and heavy monsoon rains.”

The Balili beach property is one of the sites being contested by petitioners. Governor Garcia has been inquiring about dumping coal ash on this property. Environmental lawyers warn, that should she defy court order, they will take “appropriate actions.”

Last Friday, Governor Garcia met with officials and representatives from the Department of Environment, Energy Regulatory Commission and Transmission Corp. regarding preliminary talks of building additional coal-fired power plants in the region. Governor Garcia also said she met with representatives from Korea Southern Power Co., Ltd. (Kospo).

This temporary order is being celebrated as a huge victory among environmentalists and community members of Cebu. Congratulations to those involved and good luck with the rest of the case. It is clear that the people must remain vigilant – there is still plenty of work to be done.

Lauren Ice
ELAW Office Manager