SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Businessmen, officials and residents of communities around this economic zone protested the issuance of an amended environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the proponent of a coal-fired power plant here, citing pending issues and opposition against the project.
“I wonder how the Environmental Management Bureau (an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources) issued the ECC despite the very strong opposition of local governments and civil society organizations to the establishment of this coal-fired plant within Subic Bay,” said Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II on Tuesday.
The RP Energy, a consortium of energy firms led by Manila Electric Co., Aboitiz and Taiwan Cogen, wants to build a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Redondo Peninsula in this free port.
Olongapo City and Zambales officials have issued several resolutions opposing the coal-fired power plant due to its impact on the Subic Bay environment, a major business and tourism drawer.
The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which conducted a social acceptability process for the project last year, recorded the strongest opposition to the power plant.
“I hope the DENR-EMB can still reconsider its decision granting the ECC to RP Energy, which, to this day, has not submitted to the provincial board of Zambales the list of benefits that local communities would get and, most importantly, how the coal plant would be operated with the least effect on the environment and health of the people,” Lacbain said.
Asked if RP Energy can start building the coal plant now that it wields the amended ECC, SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said: “They do not have a construction permit. They are only doing site development, for which they have a permit.”
Garcia also said the Supreme Court had issued a Writ of Kalikasan on the project in August, which effectively bars the start of construction.
Lawyer Michael Matias, chief environment impact assessment officer of the EMB, said RP Energy has to comply with all conditions attached to the ECC. A copy of the amended ECC states that RP Energy is required to mount a communication and information campaign, conduct regular risk and safety assessments and install a weather station at the project site. It must also regularly monitor air particles, noise and smoke emission levels from the would-be plant.
The ECC also requires RP Energy to annually report on the condition and population of fish in its area of coverage, and that of local algae and coral reefs.
But Jen Velarmino, spokesperson for the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation, said an awareness campaign should have come before the ECC was amended.
“That should have been done first, and the basis of the ECC should have been the concurrence of stakeholders with this project,” she said. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon