SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Business groups and residents opposed to a coal-fired power plant for Subic have urged President Aquino to invest instead in alternative energy for the freeport.
Former Environment Undersecretary Gregorio Magdaraog, coconvenor of the Subic Anticoal Coalition, said the Aquino administration may use Subic to promote its alternative energy policies to avoid destroying the freeport’s tourism appeal.
In various public consultations last year, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant would be needed to keep Luzon’s power supply steady in the near future.
The plant will be built and managed by RP Energy Inc. (RPEI), a consortium composed of Aboitiz Power, Manila Electric Co. and Taiwan Cogen Corp.
There are projects in the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) pipeline that the government could tap to build an alternative energy model for Subic, according to a freeport official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject.
The official cited the contracts approved under the present SBMA board with the Energy Logics Group Inc., the Hydro China Subic Ltd Corp. and the Energy Logics Philippines Inc. All these projects have a combined committed power supply of 503 MW.
These projects, which amount to $1.188 billion in investments, could provide the amount of power to the Luzon grid in place of RPEI’s coal-fired plant, the official said.
“We commend and endorse the implementation of a $450-million solar and wind power energy project that [the board] signed with Hydro China that will showcase Subic Bay Freeport as a center for renewable energy,” Magdaraog said in the statement.
SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia, in a recent roundtable discussion with Inquirer editors and correspondents, said Hydro China had put up two wind towers in the freeport so it could record the strength and frequency of wind in the area in preparation for the project.
Garcia said the tests, which would last a year, are proceeding smoothly.
“It looks okay because the towers are in a high altitude area,” he said.
At least 155 representatives of local governments, the zone’s business locators, freeport workers and residents rejected the coal-fired power plant project when they participated in a mandated Social Acceptability Process (SAP) in December last year.
The SAP results had been submitted to President Aquino, according to Garcia. “The [SAP] report that SBMA [sent] to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the President validates our claim that there is overwhelming opposition to the RPEI coal-fired power plant,” Magdaraog said.
Alex Hermoso, lead convenor of the Zambales-Olongapo Civil Society Networks, said: “We are not against the provision of additional power to supply the national grid. But power production must also be environmentally responsible.”
“This is really the bone of contention, we are against coal as fuel [to generate electricity], but some would misrepresent our position (and SAP) as being antienergy, which is not so,” he said.—Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon