“Globally, coal and coal power plants are among the highest sources of carbon emissions. Also, coal has been identified as the leading source of air pollution and has largely contributed to the occurrences of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. We cannot comprehend why the Aquino administration is still supporting and increasing the operation of coal power plants in the country.” – Kalikasan
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
As environmentalists all over the country continue to call for cleaner sources of energy and the closure of coal power plants in the country, President Benigno Aquino III showed his full support to the building and operation of another one.
On April 1, President Aquino inaugurated the commercial operation of the 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Barangay Ingore in La Paz District, Iloilo City. The facility is owned by Panay Energy Development Corp. (PEDC) and its mother company, the Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC).This is the first coal power plant built and operated under the Aquino administration.
Environmental activist groups Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) and Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) criticized Aquino for supporting the construction and operation of coal power plants in the country. Kalikasan PNE in a statement said the increasing operation of coal power plants would contribute to the worsening global warming and increase the country’s dependence on the dirty and polluting source of energy.
“In spite of the strong opposition of the people of Iloilo and the availability of cheap, clean and indigenous energy sources, the government allowed the operation of the dirty and dangerous PEDC coal power plant,” said Marjorie Pamintuan, spokeperson of Kalikasan PNE.
According to Pamintuan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) suspended the coal power plant last year because of the Clean Air Act. She said the plant’s construction and testing operations were met by protests from the communities, religious sector, business groups, academe and students, and activist groups in Iloilo.
Only last week, residents near the power plant complained of noise and air pollution coming from the plant.
“Globally, coal and coal power plants are among the highest sources of carbon emissions. Also, coal has been identified as the leading source of air pollution and has largely contributed to the occurrences of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. We cannot comprehend why the Aquino administration is still supporting and increasing the operation of coal power plants in the country,” Pamintuan said.
According to Kalikasan PNE, more coal-fired power plants will be constructed in the provinces of Isabela, Zambales, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Davao City, Saranggani, General Santos, and Sultan Kudarat.
PEDC is the 10th coal power plant operating in the country. There are similar power plants operating in Sual, Pangasinan; Masinloc, Zambales; Mauban and Pagbilao, Quezon; Toledo City and Naga, Cebu; La Paz, Iloilo, and Semirara, Antique and Villanueva, Misamis Oriental.
In his keynote speech, Aquino said the new power plant will bring “many important contributions” not only to Iloilo City to neighboring provinces. He said that increased energy security will spur both investments and tourism and uplifting the economic stature of the localities.
“This is both a good sign and a challenge. With this power plant in place, the next step forward is to augment the projected power requirements in the whole Visayas grid with new and appropriate energy technologies. We should also start exploring and harnessing the potential of renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydro power, among others that are abundant in your area,” he told residents.
During the inaugural rites, Aquino was joined by Senator Franklin Drilon, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim and local officials , among them Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., and Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Trenas.
Last year, President Aquino reported that $3.7 Billion investments in the power sector, the bulk of which came from Marubeni Corporation which promised to invest in coal power projects. The Japanese company committed to rehabilitate and expand the 1,200-megawatt (MW) Sual and 735-MW Pagbilao coal-fired power facilities in Quezon province. Last month, President Aquino condoned the P4 Billion ($92.4 million) debt of the Pagbilao Power plant which Marubeni owns.
For their part, the climate activist group Philippine Climate Watch Alliance said President Aquino’s favoring of coal and coal power plants as source of energy was “unintelligent.”
“It shows his adamant subservience to the dictate of foreign and private energy companies. Even if it is sustainable, reliable and cheaper to develop our own indigenous renewable resources, the government chooses to remain dependent to imported dirty energy sources,” the group said.
Environmentally Destructive Projects
In Davao, the Network Opposed to Coal Fired Power Plants (NO to COAL – DAVAO) sounded the alarm that environmentally critical projects such as mining, nuclear plants, coal fired power plants, and large-scale mining among others could trigger worst man-made tragedies if nothing is done to stop them. The group issued the warning on the wake of the recent natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami.
“Natural disasters are made worse by the presence of capitalist’s profit – oriented projects that pose serious risks to the people and the environment. Now we are facing possible spread of radiation because of the nuclear radiation leak after a nuclear power plant exploded in the wake of the Japan tsunami incident,” said the group’s convener Francis Morales.
Morales is also the secretary general of the environmental rights group Panalipdan Southern Mindanao.
Morales said their group is currently campaigning to convince the Davao City Council to junk the proposal of Aboitiz power corporation to build a 300 mega-watt coal fired power plant (CFPP) in a 52.7 hectare property in Brgy. Binugao, Toril District, Davao City and Brgy. Inawayan, Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur.
According to project proponent Aboitiz Power Corporation (APC), the coal-fired power plant proposed in Davao City will make the “Silicon Gulf City, the most competitive city in Mindanao, or even the whole country.”
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