In late 2009, Filipino activists tried to document the dumping of toxic coal in Tinaan, a village in the Philippines' Naga city in Cebu province, and were then charged with trespassing. Today, the Naga Municipal Trial Court acquitted the activists.The Mindanao Examiner reports that Greenpeace, which carried out the protest to call attention to the public health and environmental threats posed by coal ash, is pleased with the court's decision.
"Activism is not a crime. And we are very glad that the judiciary recognizes this. But we repeat our call to the provincial government to get its act together. Coal ash – a toxic by-product of the coal-firing process from the power plant – was dumped in an area posing a threat to the health and livelihoods of the (Tinaan) community."
"The risks have also increased as more coal ash continues to be produced by the coal plant and threatens other areas in Cebu, and there are still no clear plans for proper disposal," said Mark Dia, Country Representative of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Results of tests conducted by Greenpeace in 2005 from ash samples taken from the Naga and Toledo coal-fired power plants in Cebu revealed the insidious presence of mercury, which is a deadly neurotoxin; arsenic, which is a known carcinogen; as well as other hazardous substances such as lead and chromium.
Controversy surrounding the case had been building. Cebu Daily News reported earlier this month:
In yesterday's hearing, lawyer Guillermo Dabay of Kepco (one of the power companies, Korean-owned, involved) asked the court to lift the temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) in the Balili property in Naga City so they can dispose their coal ash waste.
Dabay told the court they are almost “drowning” in coal ash waste since their emergency silos are almost full.
He said they would be forced to shut down their operations if they have nowhere else to dispose of their coal ash waste.
More again from The Mindanao Examiner:
"The provincial authorities wasted time and taxpayers’ money for over two years by trying to criminalize activists who simply exercised freedom of expression, taking action that they themselves should have taken to protect the community," said Amalie Obusan, one of the activists charged in the case.