PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte is not fulfilling his pledge to encourage the development of renewables after making a push for coal-fired energy in his home region of the southern Philippines, a non-government organization (NGO) said.

Last week, Mr. Duterte addressed troops in Jolo, Sulu, saying that he is “ready to open” borders to spur development in Mindanao, which will require, among others, investment in coal energy.

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) said he is backing off from a promise made in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA), where he ordered the Department of Energy (DoE) to expedite the development of renewables and reduce the Philippines’ dependence on coal.

“There was a significant turnaround sa kanyang (in his) policy statement (on renewables development), at ang turnaround na ‘yan ay ang pag-pursue ng government ng coal mining (And that turnaround is the government’s pursuit of coal mining),” Ian Rivera, national coordinator of PMCJ, said during a recent online pre-SONA briefing hosted by the Power for People Coalition.

Patitingkarin ng pamahalaan ni Duterte ang coal mining sa pamamagitan ng [pag-ayos ng] daanan ng coal dito sa (Mindanao),” he added. (The Duterte government is making coal mining a centerpiece by clearing pathways for coal in Mindanao).

Mr. Duterte said in his address to the troops that “coal will be used for the next 30 years,” unlike solar energy, which he claimed is currently limited by underdeveloped storage technology. “Parang baterya, iilan lang ang makarga niyan (Solar capacity is limited by battery storage),” he said.

Solar can only generate during good weather in daylight hours and needs efficient storage to deliver power when it is not absorbing energy from the sun.

Mr. Rivera said the President is also backing off on a promise to reduce the impact of climate change, which is a consequence of burning fossil fuels, such as coal.

Ang binabanggit ni Duterte ay pagtalikod sa kanyang pagpirma sa (His remarks also go against the spirit of the) Paris Agreement,” he said, citing the landmark treaty signed during the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015.

The DoE led by Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi has adopted a technology-neutral policy which welcomes all forms of power to ensure energy security. Coal remains the biggest source of electricity in the country’s generation mix. Over the next decade, the DoE expects its share to increase to 30%.

The Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. is developing coal projects like the mines within coal-operating contract 41 in Zamboanga Sibugay, where coal reserves are deemed high quality. Extraction of the resource from underground mines is expected by 2025. — Adam J. Ang