Amid opposition, 15MW coal-fired power plant in Palawan gets sustainable council affirmation

interphoto_1372830883PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — The controversial proposed 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Barangay San Isidro, Narra in southern Palawan earned a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance Thursday morning from the multi-sectoral and inter-disciplinary body Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), which has the authority for approving projects in the ecologically-important province.

The issuance of the clearance by PCSD followed the endorsement given by the Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council) of Narra, and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’ (provincial board) confirmation early last week.

In providing the clearance, the PCSD “only affirmed” the old one it issued to project proponent DMCI Power Corporation (DPC) in 2013 for its first proposed site in Barangay Panacan, also in Narra.

The SEP clearance is a strict requirement before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) could grant the project an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC), which is the final permit that the DPC needs to begin construction, said PCSD staff spokesman Alex Marcaida.

No to coal plant

Trying to halt the SEP clearance issuance, Catholic nun Xenia Juanita, representative of the non-government organizations (NGOs), raised at the PCSD’s regular meeting Thursday at the Office of the Provincial Governor that the DPC has not yet presented for the new proposed site an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, which would describe the nature of the project, location, and environmental and social impacts, as well as mitigating measures.”

PCSD Executive Director Nelson Devanadera answered Juanita, saying the EIA is the requirement for DENR’s ECC issuance, and not for SEP clearance that only requires “social acceptability” through endorsements by local government units.

Governor Jose Alvarez, who is known for his pro-development stand, and who also chairs the PCSD, has since brushed aside oppositions, and reiterated that the technology to be used in the coal plant is eco-friendly.

Alvarez said once the plant is put up, the project proponent should plant bamboo in 6,000-hectare area in the southern towns of Aborlan, Narra, and Sofronio Española for the eventual biomass fueling of the coal plant.

“This will give livelihood opportunities for about 6,000 families,” he said, adding that “after three to five years when the biomass [fuel] will be available, the coal-fired power plant will no longer import coal from Semirara.”

Alvarez added that “while bamboo has worst carbon emissions compared to coal, it would be nothing to DMCI’s circulating fluidized bed (CFB) clean coal technology that is emission-free.”

The governor claimed that if the coal-fired power plant is harmful to and for the environment, “then why does the one in Bataraza town, which has been operating for over 10 years now, did not even electrocute birds at its transmission lines or even kill fishes?”

Alvarez told ex-officio Board Member Abraham Ibba, Liga ng mga Barangay representative, to bring Juanita along with the NGOs to have an ocular visit at the said coal plant.

Narra town Mayor Lucena Demaala, who also attended the council’s regular meeting, refused to comment about the SEP clearance issuance when asked by the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

Demaala disapproved the project proponent when it proposed to construct in Panacan.

In 2013, Demaala managed to convince the municipal council to refuse giving endorsement to DMCI, which then proposed to put up the plant in the coastal barangay of Panacan, about one kilometer from the protected Philippine Cockatoo sanctuary of Rasa Island.

It was then transferred to the second proposed site in Aborlan town, also in southern Palawan, but it also faced stiff opposition from the academe and indigenous people as it would be situated near a fish sanctuary.

The battle had reached the court, causing a local judge to issue a temporary environment protection order (TEPO).

Demaala, however, said that she will only allow coal plant in her town at the third proposed site if it will use bamboo chips as fuel instead of coal.

“[It was] a sad day today for Palawan,” Cynthia Sumagaysay-del Rosario of the anti-coal group Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE), posted as Facebook status hours after learning of the PCSD move.

Anger vented on Sumagaysay’s Facebook status as environmental activists on the comment thread shared their take on what they called “swift railroading” of the issuance of four necessary permits from Barangay Council up to PCSD that were issued in just a month.

PACE member Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) is scheduled to convene to plan their counter-action move against the project. An “indignation rally” is expected on or before World Environment Day on June 5.

UNESCO title threatened

Meanwhile, PACE has since maintained “it is inconsistent with the Palawan Island Master Plan for Energy Development which shows that renewable energy, specifically hydropower, is the cheapest source of power.”

The group added that “building a coal power plant in the province is not economically and ecologically feasible.”

Touted as the “Last Ecological Frontier of the Philippines,” the province is also holding two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park and the Puerto Princesa Underground River.

Classified as a “site of excellence, where new and optimal practices to manage nature and human activities are tested and demonstrated,” it was declared UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1990.

But the special title is threatened should the project succeed as coal is a non-renewable source of energy and a type of fossil fuel that when combusted can be a major emitter of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide responsible for global warming and climate change.


Sunny Ilocos town welcomes construction of $40-million solar plant next month

Philippines News Agency

Currimao, Ilocos Norte, solar plant, solar energy, renewable energy

CURRIMAO, Ilocos Norte – Residents and officials of this town has welcomed the construction of a solar power plant here to give way for more livelihood and job opportunities in the area.

The solar energy project which is expected to power up about 8,000 households by 2016 will commence this June.

In a public hearing held Thursday at the Currimao town hall, village and town officials, residents and representatives from the different sectors who attended pose no objection for the construction of the 60-hectare solar power farm located in Barangay Paguludan-Salindeg and Bimmanga, this town.

Expressing support to the project, Currimao Mayor Gladys Go Cue issued a certification citing residents here have no objection to the project as long as the trees to be cut to give way to the construction of the project will be replaced.

Pegged at USD 40 million worth of investment, Soleq Philippines Inc. committed to allocate at least Php 25 million for its reforestation project.

Soleq Philippines Inc. took over the project after Mirae Asia, the first project proponent sold its shares to the company.

For every tree to be cut, the LGU of Currimao and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has demanded the company to replace it with 300 seedlings. Also, the trees which can still be earth-balled, if possible will be replaced with at least 100 seedlings.

Earlier, the solar project proponent proposed to cut 1, 281 trees but this was opposed by some environment advocates and the Ilocos Norte government saying the number is too much.

A re-inventory of the trees to be cut was again conducted and this resulted to a reduction of almost 50 percent or some 681 trees spared.

In addition to the P25 million reforestation project, Soleq Philippines Inc. also committed to allocate P30 million or a total of P55 million for its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project for its host communities.

According to Cue, the amount will be use for the purchase of a brand new fire truck, scholarship grants, refurbishment of school buildings and maintenance of main roads among others.

For local residents, the coming of a big time investment here would mean more livelihood and job opportunities and lower electric bills for them.

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