Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Looking back at Masinloc by Chuck Baclagon
November 10, 2005, 8:12 am
Filed under: Greenpeace, Life at work, Stop climate change | Tags: , , ,
Chuck Baclagon, Greenpeace New Media Campaigner outside the Masinloc coal plant.

Chuck Baclagon, Greenpeace New Media Campaigner outside the Masinloc coal plant.

By this time numerous papers have already published the explicit photo of the injured Greenpeace activist Jens Leowe as he was being tended to by Debra Pristor. Many articles have been in circulation depicting the action at varying angles and at the end of it all the question as to why they were there remains to be an issue that has been kept on the sidelines.

This piece is but an attempt to speak about the very issue addressed by the which is about coal plants and its role on climate change. But before anything else let me just remind you that this one would be of significant difference than the other pieces that have already been written about the violence that has transpired other than the fact that I was there when it happened. But also because in a way this piece is written under a predisposition of partiality to the activists that were hurt and detained since I personally know them and most of them I’ve spent lighter moments with . This is just a simple telling of my account of the event. But this is the story of those who dared to make a difference last November 10, 2005 for their bravery and dedication to the fight for clean energy has earned them the title of ‘energy revolutionaries’.

Before the violent response of the coal plant security to the Greenpeace activists in 600-megawatt coal plant in Masinloc. Climate change was merely an academic issue for me since I am relatively new with Greenpeace and that my job basically makes me deal with updates, documents and photographs that I upload online on the site. But all of that changed as I was among the few that witnessed the events on the coal plant unfolded before my eyes.

The chill of the morning air made me wear my hoodie as I got off the van that brought me and other folks from the media to the pier on the coast of Masinloc where we’re about to bear witness to the Greenpeace action on the Masinloc coal-fired thermal power plant. The plant’s gigantic smokestack emitting dark smoke stands high on the horizon, while the Rainbow Warrior is also seen near the plant.

In a few minutes, we started to board the fishing boats that’ll be taking us to the site and I was a little bit nervous because if in any case something goes wrong while we’re in the boat I’m done for, since I don’t know how to swim.

Soon, our boat was sailing at full speed, Athena Ronquillo of Greenpeace International was sharing some interesting facts about the coal plant and the coal industry and about alternative energy resources to coal to the group of journalists who were with us on the boat and soon we were greeted by the Greenpeace inflatables that are rushing towards the plant.

In no time saw the activists donning orange overalls climbing on the plant’s perimeter fence, as we’re witnessing them climb we saw the ladder that they’re using got pushed by the plant’s security that rushed towards the fence. In spite of the arrival of the guards the activists that were able to enter the plant started climbing and in no time we see some of them on the scaffolding of the plant’s boilers, where after a few seconds an alarm siren echoed from the plant, and soon there were also guards on the boilers hurling stones at them.

Static noises abound in our boat as various reports regarding the security’s reaction to the activists are reported to us by those on field via their CB radios. All of a sudden we heard a gun shot, and almost everything came to a pause, instantly the noise of the radios again echoed in the boat and various reports we’re being given saying that one of the security personnel fired a warning shot. A couple seconds later we heard a report that one of the climbers, Jens Loewe was taken by guards to a corner and is being beaten. In response to the urgency of the situation folks decided to order our boats to go closer to the scene.

As soon as we got close enough to the site I along with other media folks jumped off the boat to cover the situation there. It was very difficult to walk to shore since the smoke and ash that the plant emitted settled into a bog in the nearby waters slowing us on our way to the site.  But after a while of walking and stumbling upon the toxic waters I finally made it to shore barefooted since I decided to throw my sandals back to the boat because it’s slowing me down earlier.

Immediately, I saw Jens lying on the ground looking really hurt and he was tended by Debra Pristor who has a bandage wrapped on her right arm. I also saw Pam who’s crying because she was hit by a stone and she’s hurt. Then I approached Tomas Leonor who told me that he was kicked in the back by some of the guards inside. One by one the intercepted volunteers gather at the fence that separates the rest of us from the activists. A short while later, the three activists that finally that weren’t blocked display their ‘No More Coal’ banners.

Suddenly I saw Janine Mercado, being escorted by some of the guards she’s also crying as she told me and the other media people that she got hit in the chest by a huge object that was thrown at her. After talking to her I checked out on Jens condition and there’s still no medical person tending to his injuries. Momentarily more guards came carrying paper bags that contained bread and offered it to the injured activists and media alike. I caught a glance of Debra thanking the guard that gave her a piece of bread.

Seconds later, I saw some medical personnel from the plant coming to tend to the injured activists. As he was being treated Sven Teske, came on the scene to talk to Jens in German regarding his condition. I couldn’t quite understand what exactly Jens condition was but it is certain that he needs to be taken to a nearby hospital. I learned later that an ambulance was already on the way to the plant.

The situation was really tense as more security personnel came to the scene some of them donning military outfits and carrying long fire arms. By this time the media was very busy interviewing the activists, the plant personnel and other the other Greenpeace people that are also on the scene. I heard from one of the people present there that the ambulance has already arrived but it was having trouble in the gate and that it can’t enter the facility.

As the negotiations went on…it was already getting difficult for me to get on the same page with everyone else since the situation was already blown out of proportion. Few moments later I the ambulance finally arrived to take Jens and the other injured volunteers to the hospital, and as Jens was boarded in the ambulance some of the other activists decided to display their ‘no more coal’ banners but in those three attempts every single banner was grabbed by some of the irate security people.

A while later the three activists who were able to display their banners from atop the steel beams on the plat were finally brought along the other activists, thankfully they’re all unharmed. I was asking of their condition when word came out that police are already on their way to the plant. Immediately Red Constantino, the Greenpeace Regional Climate Campaigner and Sven Teske of Greenpeace International called on the press and issued their statements denouncing the violent response of the plant’s security saying that the way the security treated on the activists is much the same as the way the coal industry treats our climate with its continues operation. After delivering their statements a van from the plant came to take the activists to the police who’re already on the gate.

It was at that moment it was decided that we go back to the place where we boarded the fishing boats that got us there. Some of the folks I’m with followed to the precinct where the activists are to be detained. While some of us decided to go back and tell the story of the incident. I was one of those that went back to tell of their story.

As I rode back with the other media personnel that are on their way back to Manila it became clear to me that this is how serious the situation of climate change is, and in response to the gravity of the need to combat climate change there are people like those Greenpeace activists and volunteers that were met with violence by the plants security. In the papers now a number of articles more eloquent than this have been published and have been brought into the limelight. It is my hope that this would be a fitting tribute to them who dared to make a difference.

And in looking back at Masinloc, the situation impressed on me that I should be thankful of the fact that there are people who’re that serious with the cause of clean energy proving that neither sticks nor stones can stop the Greenpeace energy revolutionaries from going after climate criminals and advancing the cause for clean energy now!

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