Proposed coal plant in Palawan may doom ‘Katala’ conservation efforts

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Photo by Peter Widmann of Katala Foundation Inc.

MANILA, Philippines — A proposed coal power plant in Palawan could spell the end for more than a decade of intense conservation efforts for the critically endangered and endemic Philippine Cockatoo, locally known as the Katala, that number only around 1,000 worldwide.

A proposed power plant of DMCI power corporation in Barangay (village) Panacan, Municipality of Narra, Palawan is just a kilometer away from Rasa Island, a major wild life sanctuary of the Katala where more than a quarter, around 280, of the global population of the bird resides.

Indira Widmann, Chief Operations Officer of the Katala Foundation that has been heading the conservation efforts since 1998, said in a phone interview with INQUIRER.net that the construction of the coal power plant would have a severe impact on the birds.

“The electric lines [and] the plant [would be built] in the direct flight path of the cockatoos from the island to the mainland,” Widmann said.

The structure of the plant itself and the power lines will be in the shortest route of the birds when they gather food in the mainland and bring it back to the island for their offspring, she said.

“If there is a [power] plant there, they will look for other ways to go back to the island, which will consume more energy leaving them with little energy left to care for their hatchlings,” Widmann said.

She said that there have been cases of electrocution when some of the Cockatoos landed on the power lines that were already in the area.

“[The Katala is] only found it in the Philippines, but it has global importance. Rasa [Island] does not only house the cockatoo but also other threatened species, its really an area of global importance,” Widmann said.

Started with 25

The Katala Foundation began their conservation efforts on Rasa Island with just 23 individual birds back in 1998.

Since then, they have managed to raise the number of the birds to around 280 in the island through nest protection, a feat that took a lot of time and effort because of the low birth and survival rate of the bird.

“They only breed once a year, and in a clutch of two to four, but the survival rate is [half],” Widmann said.

“There can even be a failed breeding season where we will not have any fledglings,” she said citing extreme season such as El Nino affecting the birds.

The proposed 15 megawatt coal power plant will add stress to the birds and further affect the conservation efforts of the foundation, Widmann said.

No endorsement

The proposed power plant has been approved by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) despite the lack of an endorsement from the Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council) of Narra, councilor Marc Angelo Palanca Miguel told INQUIRER.net in a separate phone interview.

PCSD is the multi-sectoral government body, created through Republic Act 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan Act, charged with the governance and implementation of the law.

Miguel said that there was an endorsement for the project from the Panacan barangay council that was received by the Narra municipal council but this was “lost in the floor” because nobody seconded it.

“After a long process of consulting with public and because of health and environmental concerns, we were hesitant to endorse that project,” he said.

“It was supposed to be under second and final reading … [but no one] seconded the motion for endorsement [so] it was lost in the floor,” Miguel said. “It’s neither approved nor disapproved.”

The endorsement was supposed to pass through from the barangay council to the municipal council and then to the regional council before the PCSD can approve the project, he said.

“I’m wondering why the PCSD endorsement came first before the municipal, when the endorsement is supposed to pass through Barangay, Municipal, and Provincial councils before arriving at the level of the PCSD,” Miguel said.

Online petition

Katala Foundation has started an online petition (http://bit.ly/saveourcockatoos) to ask PCSD Chairman Governor Abraham Kahlil Mitra to withdraw its endorsement of the power plant project.

“The proposed site is the last stronghold of the critically endangered Philippine Cockatoo, a species for which the Province of Palawan has particular responsibility,” the petition read.

“The power plant would disrupt the flight path of foraging cockatoos, resulting in starvation and reduction of the population. It would push the already highly [endangered] species even closer to extinction,” it said.

As of April 9, 2013, the petition has 2,630 signatures and needs 2,370 more.

Environmental group Haribon Foundation has also expressed support for the Katala Foundation saying in a statement that it was “saddened by the controversial decision by the PCSD to issue a Strategic Environmental Plan or SEP clearance to allow the construction of the facility in Narra.”

“What we have right now is potential electricity from a dirty source, one that will disturb a very rich ecosystem, and that will threaten the peace of an endangered endemic bird,” Haribon said.

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  • shane oy

    what? coal plant in palawan? Heaven help us!!! It is like putting crocodiles beside a poultry house. Coal plant is a source of pollution, it will destroy the environment and palawan’s treasure is the environment. everyone please help stop this craziness.

    this press release should give a heavier reason to support them, not just the birds, because most people are not concerned about this things but with things that directly affect their lives.

    this write up seems like more concerned to the survival of their organization than the very reason of their existence – the birds.

  • rolandtr

    And what kind of power generation will you put up in Palawan to support its tremendous economic potential? God help Palawan if there will be no big power generation project in the pipeline in the next 5 yrs!

    • shane oy

      allow me to make it clear that i am not against development. However we should not sacrifice our environment for the sake of development. There ways to make a “sustainable develoment” -A coal plant is not one.

      • rolandtr

        like what kind of power plant do you propose to be put up in Palawan? Hydro? They dont have that. Geothermal? They dont have that also. Bring power accross from Panay? So expensive! Gas power? They dont have the economies of scale for that yet..so tell us what should replaced this coal power plant investment?

      • gryzyxwoz

        Worry not. When the world’s air becomes too dirty for us to breathe, then we will remember these issues…. too late

      • rolandtr

        coal power now is not as bad as what most people think it is…there are so many advance technologies that captures particulates from its smokes stack…the one in Sual has this. Go there and the surounding environment is more green than your house graden..It is when operators are allowed to cut cost and not capture the particulates from the smoke stack that polution happens..

      • buttones

        I am no expert but I believe you are right, but it does not
        say what generation of coal fired plant this is, is it the latest technology? I doubt it very much, and it also depends on the type of coal burnt,some coal is ‘cleaner’ than others- like oil. If this plant was a first in PH for ‘clean’ coal power generation we would have heard about it, and what will they do with the coal ash I wonder? Yes options are limited, wind power tends to slice the birds into small pieces, and is not efficient, no geothermal, no hydro, solar takes up hectares and hectares and has barely a life of 20 years. You speak of ‘tremendous’ economic potential in what way? Palawan is the last remaining island in PH that hasn’t been destroyed, most of the others have, I do hope they don’t make
        a mess of the place as they have all the others.

      • rolandtr

        Economic potential of Palawan? Imagine 5M tourist descending into the island per year. And that is very small..Bali is a lot smaller than Palawan with fewer and inferior beaches yet today it has more than 5M tourists. Palawan has the forests, the beaches, the cliffs, the limestone islands..the lakes, and the wild life..It can easily absorbed 10M tourist in ten years with the right development strategy. To do that it needs a power generation infrastructure to support all those hotels and service support industry. Palawan can easily be the generaor of emplyment in the next ten years..

      • buttones

        Thanks rolan, I’m going to lose my connection for ’upgrading’ [whatever that means] for a couple of days, typical PH, so I’ll get back to you. I have some things to say on this matter. And thanks again…

      • panhase

        You are right, Palawan still has forests, beaches, lakes and wildlife. Now try to imagine what would happen to this nature if 5M or as you suggest 10M tourists would visit this island? When these attractions are gone one needs another business model to lure tourists and what could that be?

      • rolandtr

        You obviously do not know what you are talking about. I suggest you make a visit to Bali. Danapasar Airport holds 5M tourist arrival every year. It is a small island with a very fragile environment..with its rivers, forest and the local culture….the tourists arrival became a boon to all these because the people are a big part of the industry. They own their tourism industry…their rice terraces are protected..their lakes are protected..their rivers are clean and protected..And if you walk in the ricefield of Ubod, you can feel the cadence of the Balinese vulture running through its swaying rice fields…Palawan from Balabac in the South to Calamianes in the North can more easily abosrbed 10M arrivals without destroying the environment…El Nido has been the favorite of so many tourist who knows its allure..and yet it has been so well preserved. Try going there and you will see that in spite of more than 30 yrs of tourists arrival it is still prestine and beautiful!

      • panhase

        Yes, I am sure I do not know what I am talking about. But maybe you can take a look at places around the world that became overdeveloped and see what happened to the tourism industry there. El Nido is indeed liked by many tourists but it will not remain if the environment of Palawan is not preserved. 10M tourists will produce a lot of waist that has somehow to be disposed of. And there will be migration to this island because people will try to work there, they have to be haused, their children to be schooled and so on.
        A good example for overdevelopment would be Boracay. I do not know if you have any idea how it looked 30 years ago but take a look at it now.

        In all places where this happens tourism will decline, the owners of hotels,/resorts and so on will then try 2 lower the prices to allure tourists. When this happens, El Nido will no longer be high end tourist destination.

      • buttones

        The tourist potential of Palawan might be as you say, but what will be the detrimental effect on the environment and the island with10 million arrivals every year. And with barely 450,000 people living there, there will be an influx of many more people supporting the industry. This would be my concern, can this be developed properly? We do not have a very good record when it comes to this sort of thing, Boracay used to be number one 1 in the world, look at it now, it’s getting overdeveloped, Baguio has been ruined – Without stringent control of what gets developed and what cannot be, Palawan might end up the same way.

        Developers tend to destroy, and who will control all this? LGU’s? I live on a small ‘tourist’ island, one of the few that was designated a ’wilderness area’ by Marcos and it has thankfully kept away major development. Central government with it’s relevant departments and scientists have to take a real close look at the development of Palawan, it’s the last remaining major island that reflects what PH used to be.

        On the topic of the Katala, this bird was common in most of PH islands, it was captured [and sold as pets] or destroyed deliberately because humans replaced it’s habitat with rice fields which the bird fed on, naturally. We destroy so much of our environment, and the habitats of so many creatures. This reforestation is nothing of the kind, they cannot plant a forest, they are planting plantations.

        On power, well world estimates indicate 85% of demand is going to come from coal, oil and gas in that order- so we are stuck with it.

        Don’t get me wrong, I do not say Palawan cannot be developed to a point, my concern is it should be done with sympathy for the environment which is, in the end the attraction anyway, what is the saturation point of development I have no idea, but there is one..

        And then there is mining….

      • http://twitter.com/riverswan Marcus Swanepoel

        Two things. We don’t need a coal plant because there is no power crisis. 80% of our brown-outs are distribution related. Studies have shown two rivers in Palawan could be tapped for mini-hydro.

  • Corrupt_Jerk

    This shouldn’t be allowed to be implement which endangered our resources especially the Katala.. let us preserve the beauty of Palawan. Abolish the coal plant plan.

  • Concur_Dissent

    Let the birds live, forget about power, let’s just blame PNoy in the future if palawan experiences power shortage like Mindanao. How severely would the environment be impacted if these 280 birds are lost?

    • http://twitter.com/riverswan Marcus Swanepoel

      It’s not just the birds. The power plant isn’t for consumers. It’s going to be for more mining in southern Palawan.

      • Concur_Dissent

        mas mabuti consumers na may development pa! to sacrifice the lives of 280 birds, why not??

  • http://www.facebook.com/simoun.magaalahas.10 Simoun Magaalahas

    pwede naman lagyan ng windmill ang palawan kagaya ng ilocos na almost 40% ng energy ng ilocos ay nanggagaling dito sa windmill, mahangin din ang palawan kailangan lang mag conduct ng survey para hindi pumalpak ang plano…

  • disqus_vAYZeYfKOD

    Solar power not fossil fuels

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