These laws are designed by the Duterte administration to sow fear in public opinion, legitimize human rights violations and undermine democracy and press freedom. SENTRO therefore sees the fight against climate change, violations of labor rights, the impending dictatorship and the recent pandemic as interdependent.
The Philippines is one of the least CO2 emitting countries in the world. Yet, as an archipelagic island located between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, it is frequently affected by extreme weather events, such as typhoons.
When typhoons strike, transmission lines and power distribution substations are severely devastated and their rehabilitation takes three to six months – a period that hampers provincial economies.
Yet the current energy supply remains heavily dependent on coal as the main source of electricity generation. The Philippines Long Term Energy Plan (PEP) has been criticized for its “lack of focus” on clean energy28, especially as the Malampaya gas field, operated by Shell, is expected to be exhausted within four to five hours. coming years.
SENTRO is mobilizing with other movements to put the Philippines on the path to clean energy.
This includes mobilizing against coal-fired power plants with the Philippine Climate Justice Movement, working with ATM – an alliance to stop mining – to end surface and surface mining, and as a petitioner in the Greenpeace Philippines public case against carbon polluters like Chevron, Caltex and Shell.
SENTRO is also resisting the corporatization of electric cooperatives. For 40 years, publicly funded electricity cooperatives have supplied electricity to 13 million member households, including in rural areas.
The privatization of these cooperatives means higher electricity bills for consumers – the highest in Asia, frequent blackouts, unstable supply and many more without electricity. For workers, this means cutting jobs and relying more on contract labor with lower wages and no benefits.
In 2013, the San Miguel Energy Corporation privatized the Albay Electricity Cooperative (ALECO), after five years of worker resistance. High prices and inefficient services have led many community members to refuse to pay their bills.
The company disconnected the electricity services of the members who, in solidarity with the strikers, boycotted the payment of the electricity bill.
On the other hand, the strikers reconnected the electrical service of the disconnected community members. With unstable access to electricity, SENTRO introduced pilot renewable energy zones and concluded a collective agreement that created a Council for Climate Justice and Just Transition.
However, at present, nine power co-ops are under threat due to a corporate franchise grabbing bill, which is pending in Congress.
As long as privatization of the power industry is allowed, attempts at decarbonization will only maintain the status quo – the transition to renewables and green jobs will be controlled by market-oriented policies, harming workers and to their communities.
Therefore, the challenge for the labor movement is to resist, win back and restructure the electricity industry towards energy democracy. This means public control and democratic governance of the electricity industry.
Building a united global trade union movement is essential if we are to change power relations and steer away from bogus solutions to climate change.
Vicente P. Unay, Jr. is General Secretary of the National Union of Electrical Workers (Power-Sentro), based in Quezon City, Philippines.