The Philippines could sustain up to P372 billion in economic losses under a worst-case scenario of proceeding with all nine gigawatts of pending coal-fired power plants (CFPPs), the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said in a report.

CREA, in its “Air Quality & Health Impacts of Coal-Fired Power in the Philippines” report, also claimed that full implementation of the pending projects, in addition to the coal-fired plants currently in service with capacity of 10 GW, will lead to the premature deaths of over 26,000 people over 40 years, assuming all the new capacity becomes operational by 2024.

“In a scenario where all nine gigawatts (GW) of the proposed CFPPs are commercialized by 2024….these new plants would cause approximately 26,300 premature deaths over 40 years. The cumulative economic cost over such time is estimated at P372 billion,” according to the report’s authors, Lauri Myllyvirta and Isabella Suarez,

The Energy Department recently declared a moratorium on all new coal-fired projects, which will allow those in the construction stage to proceed. The authors based their 9GW capacity estimate on data compiled by the group said, citing data from Global Energy Monitor.

The authors calculated that the deterioration in air quality caused by the addition of new coal capacity would cause the Philippines to incur P317 billion in
extra costs in treating non-communicable diseases such as lower respiratory infections.

CREA, which was founded in Helsinki and employs analysts based in Europe and Asia, claims that the 10 GW of coal-fired capacity currently in service was behind about 630 air pollution-related deaths this year.

“The total annual cost borne by the public is estimated at $165 million (P8.5 billion),” according to the report.

It estimated that the annual deaths will rise to 1,000 a year if the new nine GW worth of capacity is commissioned, while economic costs will rise to $264 million (P14 billion) a year from $165 currently.

At the launch of the report on Friday, CREA Southeast Asia analyst Isabella Suarez said that there were around 45.3 air pollution-related deaths for every 100,000 people in the Philippines, citing 2018 data from the World Health Organization.

Although there is no evidence yet that links air pollution to the worsening of the global health crisis, she noted that there were emerging studies linking ambient air pollution to higher susceptibility to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“There are emerging studies that show that long-term exposure to air pollution increases vulnerability to the virus. This is because air pollution increases the risk of many pre-existing conditions that are also linked to increased vulnerability to COVID-19,” Ms. Suarez said.

The authors acknowledged the input of organizations like Greenpeace Philippines, the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, and the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice in preparing the report. — Angelica Y. Yang