Gloria Capitan, 57 years old, was one of the leaders of the Coal-Free Bataan Movement and the President of United Citizens of Lucanin Association (Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Lucanin), a community-based organization that has peacefully opposed the operation and expansion of coal plants and open storage facilities in the Mariveles neighborhood which have had harmful consequences for the local population. "Ate Glo" (as people called her) was very active in the fight against coal and led in a series of mass actions and petitions calling for a permanent closure of a coal stockpile in their village.
As a part of her human rights work, Gloria Capitan organised campaigns, filed complaints with the court, collected signatures for petitions and initiated other public actions, calling for a permanent closure of a coal project undertaken in the region. Gloria Capitan led a group of activists who stood up against plans for coal stockpiles and a coal-fired power plant in Mariveles, some sixty kilometres away from Manila. She was killed on 1st July 2016. “Her untimely passing is a significant loss to the coal-free movement”, Reuben Muni, Greenpeace campaigner, said. “If the murder of Gloria is a message to silence other anti-coal activists like her, then they are mistaken” said Valentino De Guzman, a campaigner for the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.
“On the ground where her body fell, more anti-coal activists will sprout. Instead of silencing us, it will only strengthen our convictions. The evil menace of coal must end”. Bataan is a peninsula, covers 137,298 hectares and has a population of around 760 thousand. The coastal belt has lost most of the mangrove forests, and there have been numerous oil spills in Limay port. Bataan is home to two coal power plants and two open coal storage facilities: a 140 MW plant owned by Petron in the town of Limay and a 600MW plant owned by Ayala and Sithe Global in the town of Mariveles. Two open coal storage facilities are in Mariveles. One is in Barangay Sisiman, owned by Seasia Nectar Port Services, a tandem of Filipino Seasia Logistics Philippines and London-based Nectar Group. The other is in Barangay Lucanin where Ate Glo resided and is owned by Limay Bulk and Handling Terminals and Sea Front Shipyard Port Services Inc. Aside from these facilities, expansion is well underway: 1,200 MW for GN Power Mariveles, 600 MW for San Miguel Global Power in Limay and another 1,200 MW for San Miguel in the town of Mariveles. . Many believe that the open coal storage is the main culprit in the heavy dust and severe pollution the community is suffering from, causing skin allergies and other diseases. Residents say that when pay loaders move coal so much dust and debris spread causing an alarming spike in upper respiratory tract infection cases.
This has also caused the destruction of the coastlines and sea bed. Ate Glo chose to speak up against open coal piling and the coal-fired power plant in the face of overwhelming local government support for coal energy and a national policy favoring the same.
Together with Coal-Free Bataan Movement, Ate Glo led her community in the campaign directed against the open coal storage owned by Limay Bulk and Handling Terminals Inc. located inside the Sea Front Shipyard Port Services compound in Brgy. Lucanin, Mariveles, Bataan.Community partners fear that police investigating Capitan’s murder are not serious about finding the culprits, Muni said: “It seems that the perpetrators of this crime rode on that wave of extrajudicial killings.” Not that it was a one-off: according to Global Witness, 33 Filipino environmental defenders were killed in 2015.
“The majority of the coal projects in the country are owned by big businesses, influential people who have connections in the government,” he said. “That is why whenever our coal activists become prominent, they are threatened.” The movement is on high alert, with a “buddy system” so potential targets do not travel alone. NGOs are launching their own fact-finding mission and drumming up pressure on the authorities to deliver justice for Capitan. The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) believes she was killed because of her advocacy. "She had no personal enemies. It is clear that this was the biggest reason for her death," said Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) co-convenor Gerry Arances. Alost at the same time, another anti-coal activist was killed in Cambodia, according to Arances. Two weeks ago, two other anti-coal activists had been killed in Indonesia, while protesting against the construction of a coal plant. And on April 9, 2016, nine community leaders in Bangladesh were gunned down, while hundreds were injured, as they were protesting against the construction of a 1,320 MW coal plant.. Members of PMCJ, CEED, Sanlakas, and the Archdiocesan Movement for the Environment (AMEn) observed a minute of silence during the press conference for Capitan, whom they called a fierce fighter against coal.