SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Local officials, environment advocates, residents and businessmen in this free port have asked Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to resign over his department’s issuance of an amended environmental clearance certificate (ECC) to an energy firm that wants to build a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant here.
In a letter to Paje on Dec.5, the groups said the original ECC of the coal plant proponent, RP Energy, that was issued for a 300-MW plant required a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) should “there be any expansion of the project beyond the project description or any change in the activity or transfer of location.”
Reached in Manila, Paje said there was no reason to deny the issuance of an amended ECC to a project endorsed by the Department of Energy (DoE).
“How can we refuse the call to produce more power?” he said. The issuance was in support of another agency that has committed to make sure that the coal power plant would meet the standards set under the ECC, he added.
Paje told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that those standards set by the ECC have been upgraded to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Clean Air Act. “There is no reason to deny the plant an ECC. It is just an expansion.”
The groups said in their letter to the secretary that no new EIA was presented to meet the condition for the issuance of an ECC for a 600-MW plant.
The letter was signed by representatives of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation, Subic-Olongapo Cancer Foundation, Olongapo-Zambales Civil Society Network, Task Force United Residents for Safe Subic Bay, Wildlife in Need and officials of Olongapo City and Zambales.
The amended ECC was issued to RP Energy by lawyer Juan Miguel Cuna, acting director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), on Nov. 15.
The groups said that instead of an EIA, RP Energy submitted an environmental performance report and management plan (EPRMP) to support its application to expand the proposed coal plant capacity from 300 MW to 600 MW.
“We wish to inform you that the DENR’s (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) very own guidelines for the implementation of the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System does not allow the use of an EPRMP in substitution of an EIA for an environmentally critical project such as a coal-fired power plant,” said the letter.
It said that the previous ECC was “very specific” in requiring a new EIA for changes in the original project design.
Earlier, 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. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon, with a report from Jeannette I. Andrade in Manila