By Jake Tumbado

LUNA, LA UNION – is known for its beaches, also well-known for native delicacies which are best suit for Luna’s former name “Namacpacan”, an Ilocano word which means “one who had given food.” In 1906, the name was changed from Namacpacan to Luna in honor of the famous Luna brothers: General Antonio Luna and Juan Luna. But this wonderful place is now at stake and in danger from the disastrous coal-fired power plant that is about to build in the area.

A public hearing/consultation took place for the proposed 2x335MW Coal-Fired Power Plant Project which was held at Luna Sports Complex last December 5, 2017. The occurrence was attended by 40 Barangays and LGUs to hear the rationale of Global Luzon Energy (GLE) in building the said plant. It was first presented by the GLE’s engineer, while the people of Luna were all pleased and thrilled to the engineer’s presentation.

When we arrived in the place, along with our partners from Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), and Greenpeace, we were all welcomed, and at the same time surprised by the placards while the people shouting in Ilocano “parang-ayen ti Luna, patakderen ti planta!” which means, “Paunlarin ang Luna, patayuin/patakbuhin ang planta!” (Progress for Luna, build the power plant!). Almost 800 attendees are all agreed with the coal power plant, because they were told that the plant would give benefits, particularly job opportunities, which help Luna’s progress. But, is coal really the answer? Does coal really give progress and benefit to the community? I remember the famous quote in the movie, Heneral Luna: “Negosyo o kalayaan? Bayan o sarili? Pumilli ka! (Business or freedom? The people or your own interests? You choose!). This was said by the lead-role himself, Antonio Luna, though I am not sure if it was actually mentioned by Luna in the history, yet I still want to capture its idea.

The heat of discussion in the open forum portion of the program was like the scene in the movie when Luna, along with Aguinaldo’s Cabinet members, discussed the Americans’ stay in the Philippines, when the group divided into two views in answering the question: Would it bring good to the Filipino people?

While listening to the high-pitched discussion of the locals, the pro-coal people were overwhelming, the discussion seems one-sided, I guess. Then one of us from PMCJ, who has a claim to talk about it, because his parents were also came from Luna, spoke and threw a question: “Why are we allowing the outsiders to destroy and poison this wonderful place? Look at us, we are all divided while we all have the same goal—progress. Who doesn’t want progress? Science proves that coal is dangerous to our nature and to us, humans. We will not see the consequences of it today, but surely we will see it tomorrow, or worse, our children will pay its penalty if we don’t act now!” Then half of the people in the sport arena applaud and realized something, now they are in doubt and starting to think about the power plant.

In the history, while Antonio Luna was struggling in fighting the rights of the Filipino-people against the Americans, he was being betrayed by his fellow Filipino soldier which soon resulted in allowing the Americans’ stay in the Philippines. We cannot tell that the people who opposed Luna in the history were all stupid and careless, because during their time what they saw was an opportunity and progress for Philippines. Yes, there were progress, but mostly were oppressions to the people, particularly to the poor and to the most vulnerable in the society. We have seen the consequences in the history, and I hate to think that we will repeat the same mistake in searching for this pseudo-progress and by allowing this monster-coal power plant to destroy Luna and its people—it is time to correct the mistakes of the past. Antonio Luna was being betrayed and killed by the same native-Filipino blood, let us not betray Luna and its people this time. Let us help save Luna and help stop the coal-fired power plant from destroying its natural beauty. Luna is in our hands now.

Business or freedom? The people or your own interests? You choose!