PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez has asked President Aquino to reject a 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant planned to be put up in Palawan province by the Consunji group’s energy company DMCI Power Corp.
In an urgent memorandum to President Aquino dated June 25, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer from a source in the Department of Tourism (DOT), Jimenez warned Malacañang that the approval of the coal plant would imperil Palawan’s booming tourism sector.
“The approval of the coal plant project is expected to bring irrevocable damage to one of the country’s ecological treasures and iconic destinations and one of the world’s most pristine ecosystems,” Jimenez said.
“More importantly, it will threaten one of the major sources of income and employment not only for the province of Palawan but also for the entire country,” he added.
President Aquino was expected to discuss the controversial coal plant project with provincial officials when he visits Palawan today.
The provincial government headed by Gov. Jose Alvarez has openly campaigned for support to the project while civil society groups have vowed to block it.
Jimenez’s action, according to the Inquirer source, was prompted by the concern of DOT officials over the recent decision of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to grant a Strategic Environmental Plan clearance to the project, a vital document needed before DMCI could obtain an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
DMCI has signed a 25-MW supply agreement with the Palawan Electric Cooperative but it has struggled over the last two years to find a suitable site for its coal power plant. Opposed by local and international environmental groups, the project had been rejected by local communities in two places in southern Palawan that the company initially targeted.
But now that the project has the nod of PCSD, which is headed by Alvarez, it would just be a matter of time before it gets an ECC.
Once the ECC is approved, DMCI plans to put up the plant in the coastal village of San Isidro in Narra town, some 112 kilometers south of Puerto Princesa City.
But Jimenez, citing a policy recommendation made by the DENR in 2013, urged Malacañang to instead promote renewable energy not only for Palawan but also as a national policy in support of the global goals to reduce climate change risks.
Jimenez referred to a recommendation issued by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje in 2013 for the government to strategically shift into renewable energy and depart from coal.
“While we support the DOE’s (Department of Energy’s) call for energy efficiency, we at the DENR further urge the shift to renewable sources of energy, where possible, to lessen our country’s dependence on coal and the generation of combined carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants,” Paje said in his memo to the President dated Dec. 2, 2013.
Jimenez pointed out that Palawan has achieved a tourism branding that has enabled the province to become a main earner of tourism receipt that accounts for over 6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
“Palawan is an important site for tourism development, sustainability, conservation and environmental protection. Palawan has become one of the model destinations for ecotourism. It is home to two Unesco (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) heritage sites.
Moreover, its marine and terrestrial ecosystems are known to be one of the most diverse in the world,” Jimenez said.
The Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE), an umbrella group of Palawan civil society organizations campaigning against the coal plant, welcomed the Jimenez memo and urged President Aquino to adopt the DOT’s recommendation.
“We appreciate the effort of the DOT secretary and hope that the President listens,” said PACE spokesperson Cynthia Sumagaysay-del Rosario on Sunday.
The group also urged the provincial government to implement the energy master plan it had adopted that promotes renewable energy to meet the power requirements of Palawan.
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