SBMA keeps door to coal plant open
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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The window for negotiating a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant project here is still open, a top official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said on Saturday.
SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said the board of directors met on Friday but deferred discussions on proposals to build the plant under a lease development contract it approved for Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy) early this month.
RP Energy is a consortium of energy firms Meralco, Aboitiz and Taiwan Cogen.
Garcia told the Inquirer that there were two motions that the board voted on Friday, and what prevailed was to defer action on the current terms of the deal.
He said, however, that the information from an Inquirer source that six board members had voted not to ratify the deal was correct.
“[It was] accurate, there were six [who voted not to ratify]. But there might have been some confusion about that. We didn’t ratify [the deal that time], but [the approval] was just deferred. We have to continue negotiating because the economic terms are not [acceptable yet] and there are still stakeholder concerns,” he said.
The board has 11 members, including Garcia. The Inquirer learned that the two motions involved ratifying the board action that transpired during its Jan. 8 meeting, including its approval of the coal-fired power plant project and its terms and conditions.
The original deal, which Garcia called “outrageous and highly disadvantageous to the government,” only gave the agency P1 million a year in revenue.
On the other hand, the terms of the current deal subject of the board’s discussions on Friday would have given the government P200 million annually. Asked about the project’s fate, Garcia said: “[It is] very complicated. There is the [requirement] of the national government [to consider].”
He said, however, that whether the RP Energy project would be built in the free port would be decided by the SBMA board in February.
He said the SBMA had a “much better contract now.” Garcia also promised to meet with groups opposing the project.
Locators and residents in the free port and its surrounding communities in Olongapo City and Zambales have held protest rallies against the coal-fired power plant project.
Gregorio Magdaraog, chair of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation, said the issue, as far as stakeholders are concerned, had been settled already.
“We don’t want this,” he said. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon
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