PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The controversial coal-fired power plant project in Palawan hurdled a major stumbling block on Thursday, securing the approval of the provincial environmental regulatory agency, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), after two years of fierce local community opposition.
The PCSD decision granted the mandatory Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance for the D.M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI) project, paving the way for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to issue the final environmental compliance certificate.
The SEP clearance is a special permit issued by PCSD to all projects that have potential impact on the local environment.
DMCI plans to build a 15-megawatt coal-fed power facility in Barangay Bato-Bato in the town of Narra as part of its 25-mw contract with the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco).
Already rejected twice by communities in two sites previously selected by DMCI and Paleco, Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez, a vocal supporter of the project, marshaled local political support for the project that has been stalled by the anti-coal opposition for two years. It was immediately endorsed by the municipality government of Narra after DMCI decided to move the site from Aborlan town to a new location in Barangay Bato Bato.
Early this week, the provincial board of Palawan also endorsed the coal plant.
Civil society groups denounced the PCSD decision and vowed to continue their protests at the DENR.
“We can still stop this,” former Philippine climate change negotiator Naderev Saño said in remarks in the anti-coal lobby’s group’s social networking sites.
“The manner by which the PCSD issued a Strategic Environmental Plan clearance to the thermal plant project demonstrated this body’s brazen disregard of its core mandate to protect Palawan’s environment,” he said.
“The PCSD as a permanent regulatory agency meekly surrendered itself to machinations of local politics, kowtowing to the provincial governor’s personal dictates,” added the Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE) in a statement issued Friday.
The group also denounced members of the PCSD Council who failed to articulate the popular sentiment of the communities before the council, pointing out that Narra Mayor Lucena Demaala and Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron, both political allies of Alvarez, “meekly bowed their heads and kept their mouths shut” as the governor pushed for the endorsement.
“As leaders of communities where the anti-coal protests are strongest, we were denied our basic clamor to be fairly represented in the decision making process,” the group said.
Provincial Board Member Al Rama, chair of the committee on energy in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, was quoted by the local online site “Palawan News” as endorsing the project and defending the position taken by Alvarez.
“Just trust your leader because he will not put you in harm’s way,” said Rama.
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