Subic coal plant deal invalid–CABy Robert Gonzaga
Inquirer Central Luzon
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Court of Appeals (CA) has invalidated the lease development agreement and the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of a consortium of energy firms proposing to put up a coal-fired power plant inside this free port.
Terry Ridon, Kabataan party-list president and lawyer of stakeholders in the Subic Bay Freeport who filed a writ of kalikasan in the CA, said the appellate court, in a Jan. 30 decision, nullified the lease development contract and ECC of the 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant of the Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy) that would be built here.
Ridon, in a telephone interview on Thursday, said RP Energy has “no legal leg to stand on to proceed with the construction.”
Asked on what grounds the project was stopped by the CA, he said: “Everything [was] nullified because of no [local government] approval, no NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples] certification and violation of ECC restrictions.”
Ridon, however, said the CA did not issue a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) because the power plant has yet to operate.
“The [Tepo] was not issued because the CA said the project was not operational yet so there’s no environmental damage yet,” he said.
The Inquirer had yet to receive a copy of the CA’s 101-page decision on Thursday. Ridon, however, read the highlights of the decision during a telephone interview on Thursday.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chair Roberto Garcia said he has yet to receive a copy of the decision.
RP Energy signed a lease development agreement with the SBMA on June 28, 2010, for $3.8 per square meter for 38 hectares within 50 years.
In December 2008, former Environment Secretary Jose Atienza issued an ECC for 300-MW of the power plant project. On Nov. 15, 2012, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje released an amended ECC for 600 MW.
On July 31 last year, the Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan against the project. Through the writ, the high court ordered the SBMA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and RP Energy to answer concerns raised by groups opposing the project.
The high court did not issue a Tepo and ordered the CA to hold hearings for a final decision.
Ridon, however, said RP Energy and all parties can appeal the decision.
“But they have to start all over again. They have to stop construction in the area, or they will be violating Philippine laws. They cannot proceed without an ECC,” he said.
“RP Energy would have a hard time convincing banks to finance the project because of the costly delays. They might just pass this on to consumers, so the promise of cheap electricity is gone,” he said.
Gregorio Magdaraog, head of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation (SBF-CHEC), has asked the SBMA to enforce the court’s decision.
“[The SBMA should] revoke all permits and stop site preparations. RP Energy can no longer be allowed to damage Redondo Peninsula any further,” Magdaraog said.
“Subic stakeholders applaud the CA decision,” he said.