SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Environment Secretary Ramon Paje should withdraw the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued to a consortium of energy firms that wants to build a coal-fired power plant here and instead support efforts to expand a power plant in Masinloc town to protect Subic Bay, said Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II.
“Paje should not sacrifice the environment and tourism potential of Subic Bay by supporting the coal plant project of RP Energy. Instead, he should assist the Zambales government in talks about the expansion of the coal-fired power plant in Masinloc,” Lacbain added.
He said Paje should order the immediate withdrawal of the ECC to the 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant proposed to be built in the Redondo Peninsula here because it benefits only RP Energy and “sacrifices the environment, damages the tourism potential of Subic Bay and puts people here at grave risk.”
Paje, however, said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) only gave way to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) push to have the coal-fired power plant built in Subic.
He said there was no reason to deny the power plant an amended ECC because this was just an expansion of the original ECC given to the project.
The amended ECC was issued to RP Energy by lawyer Juan Miguel Cuna, acting director of the Environmental Management Bureau, on Nov. 15.
But groups opposing the coal-fired power plant here asked for Paje’s resignation since, they said, the DENR’s guidelines for the implementation of the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System do not allow the use of an environmental performance report and management plan as a substitute for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for an environmentally critical project such as a coal-fired power plant.
In a letter to Paje, they said the previous ECC was “very specific” in requiring a new EIA for changes in the original project design.
Lacbain said the DENR should not abdicate its mandate to protect the environment just because the DOE asked it to do so. He said the United States-based AES Corp., one of the largest foreign investors in the country’s power sector, is planning to expand its operations in Masinloc.
“This could address the need for 600 MW [of power] that the DOE says it needs. And unlike with RP Energy, which will not pay a single centavo in taxes to us, Zambales will get at least P300 million from real property taxes. If the DENR helps us, we could also put a more independent and able multipartite monitoring team,” said Lacbain.
AES is a global power company with generation and distribution businesses in 30 countries.
Andrew Horrocks, AES country chair, said his company has been applying for an ECC for the expansion of the plant in Masinloc.
He said the first phase of the project includes the construction of a 300-MW coal plant, which would be completed by 2015. The second phase would see the remaining 300 MW going online by 2018, should there be a demand for more power at that time, he said.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chair Roberto Garcia, in an earlier interview, said RP Energy’s contract with the SBMA was “highly disadvantageous” to the government due to the fact that the firm would pay only P1 million annually to the agency for several hectares of prime property in the Redondo Peninsula. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon