Coal plant OKd amid oppositionBy Redempto D. Anda
Inquirer Southern Luzon
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The plan to build a 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant adjacent to the protected island of Rasa off the town of Narra, home to a critically endangered bird species, got the nod on Friday from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), overriding the opposition mounted by conservationists.
The PCSD decision granted the so-called Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance to the power facility to be put up by the Consunji-led DMCI Power Corp. which earlier won a 25-MW power supply agreement with the Palawan Electric Cooperative.
The SEP clearance is provided by a special law that applies only to Palawan (Republic Act No. 7611) and is a condition set by law exclusively in the case of Palawan prior to the granting of an environmental compliance certificate by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The PCSD approval was immediately denounced by conservation groups, whose sole vote in the council’s multiagency body was overridden by its other members.
Elizabeth Maclang, advocacy officer of the Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) which has a seat on the council, claimed local powerful politicians influenced the PCSD vote to allow the project despite the formal opposition of the municipality of Narra and conservation groups.
“The coal lobby had gained control of the council through some of its influential members. They brazenly ignored the formal opposition raised by the host municipality of Narra and the recommendations made by no less than the PCSD’s technical evaluators,” Maclang said.
The members of the PCSD, chaired by Governor Abraham Mitra, include the congressmen from the two districts of Palawan; representatives from the Office of the President, the DENR, the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Agriculture; city mayor; president of League of Municipalities of Palawan; president of Liga ng mga Barangay; and representatives from the Palawan Provincial Board, nongovernment organizations, military, business, tribal sectors and the Philippine National Police provincial command.
The power plant is planned to be put up in the eastern coast of Narra fronting the bird sanctuary island of Rasa, the last remaining major habitat of the critically endangered Palawan cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), locally called “katala.”
The opposition, including the council’s technical staff, had asked that the power facility be relocated so as to protect Rasa from plant emissions.
“The council decision brazenly ignored technical and scientific basis and was dictated by purely selfish interests and motives,” Maclang said.
She said the PNNI “will challenge the PCSD decision before the courts.”
“This decision shows also the failure of the SEP law. It tells us how weak the implementation of the law is considering that political and personal interests holds sway in the council,” she said.
Narra has declared Rasa Island a bird sanctuary and has expressed willingness to host the coal plant but in another area.