SBMA appeals CA decision on coal plant

Ecozone chief says one basis for ruling doesn’t apply to free port area

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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to reconsider a Jan. 30 ruling invalidating the lease development agreement and the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of a consortium of energy firms that proposes to put up a coal-fired power plant inside this free port.

SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said the contract for pursuing a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant was invalidated on two grounds. These, he said, were the absence of a clearance from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), indicating that the project would not impact on ancestral lands, and the court’s determination that the proponent, Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy), failed to get approval from local governments.

“But it’s very clear. Under our charter, we do not need approval of the local governments,” he said last week.

Garcia said the court “went into a territory they were not being asked about, so now, [negotiations over the power project are] on hold.”

Earlier, Terry Ridon, Kabataan partylist president and lawyer of groups opposing the coal-fired power plant’s construction, filed a writ of kalikasan in the CA against the RP Energy project.

Ridon said they received a copy of the SBMA’s motion, which was submitted to the appellate court on Feb. 19. RP Energy, he said, also filed a motion for reconsideration on Feb. 22.

He said SBMA’s position was a rehash of its previous arguments on local government approval and the need for NCIP certification.

Olongapo Mayor James Gordon Jr. said the city council passed two resolutions opposing the power project. Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II and Rep. Milagros Magsaysay also supported resolutions opposing the coal-fired power plant.

The SBMA had tried to recast the lease agreement because the terms granting the government P1 million each year from the project was “highly disadvantageous to the government,” Garcia said.

But the agency appealed the CA ruling because of the importance it gave to the local governments’ input in SBMA’s actions, Garcia said.

“The [local governments] have board seats [in the agency], but the SBMA has to have the final say on the project. [The ruling] might create a precedent where the local governments [are granted liberty by this ruling to meddle with] approval of projects in the free port,” he said. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

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