SBMA to ignore protests, sign deal with coal plant buildersBy Robert Gonzaga
Inquirer Central Luzon
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – Despite widespread protests and an almost unanimous rejection by Subic stakeholders, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is set to ratify tomorrow (Friday) a lease development agreement (LDA) with RP Energy Inc., the consortium of energy companies which plans to operate a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant here.
Environment groups expressed outrage over the SBMA’s decision to approve the deal.
SBMA Chairperson Roberto Garcia did not give details about the decision made by the SBMA board on January 9.
“I hope you don’t mind but I am not ready to discuss this issue. You will be informed at the proper time,” Garcia told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday.
He said negotiations were ongoing with RP Energy.
No Subic official responded when asked which entity had convinced the SBMA to proceed with the power deal.
The project is also the subject of a July 2012 Writ of “Kalikasan” that was imposed by the Supreme Court following a petition filed by environmental groups and individuals, among them Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño.
Olongapo City and Zambales officials have opposed the power plant project due to its impact on the Subic environment, a major business and tourism drawer. Jen Velarmino, spokesperson of the Subic Bay Freeport-Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation (SBF-CHEC), said the lease development agreement would give SBMA about P200 million a year in revenues from the operation of the coal plant.
This was a big leap from the original P1 million annual revenue affixed to the original LDA that Garcia had described as “outrageous and highly disadvantageous to the government.”
The P200 million revenue in the deal was confirmed by another agency source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the subject.
“It’s supposed to be P200 million yearly, but in [the contract] there are conditions where it could go down to P50 million,” the source said, adding that this was the reason the talks are still ongoing.
In a letter sent this week to the SBMA board, SBF-CHEC said, “We would like to ask you to explain the contents of the amended LDA and why the social acceptability policy (SAP) guidelines on prior coordination and information were not observed.”
“At your instance (referring to the SBMA board), you worked to conduct a SAP, which was facilitated by your directors Philip Camara and Norberto Sosa last December 2011. The stakeholders responded to your call, and after the SAP, enumerated to you all the points on why the coal plant is problematic,” the group said.
“Investors and residents along with other stakeholders were overwhelmingly against the construction of a coal plant without addressing the serious issues and concerns. The SBMA chair even wrote President Aquino to report on the results of the SBMA-initiated SAP.”
The group also cited Garcia’s earlier statements that “the environment is also a big consideration” in the approval of the project, and that the coal plant “would not be approved under his watch.”
“And yet we have come to know that this same board led by Chair
Garcia, approved an amended LDA even when few, if any of the environmental and health conditions set by the SBMA board, had been met and an ongoing case for a Writ of Kalikasan is yet to be concluded,” the SBF-CHEC said.