Subic locators defy chamber head over coal-fired plant
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Businessmen have reaffirmed their opposition to a Subic coal-fired power plant, defying the chamber of commerce president who believes they have lost the fight.
Danny Piano, president of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce and Industry
(SBFCCI), circulated an August 15 statement among locators telling them that “the reality is we lost this fight” against the construction of a 600-megawatt coal-fired plant at Redondo Peninsula here.
Piano also described the project as “a necessary evil, the same as our gas-guzzling cars and SUVs (sport utility vehicles).”
“It is analogous to the reason why we are not all driving hybrid cars—because we cannot afford them,” he said.
But he acknowledged that locators were split over the construction of the plant by Aboitiz Power, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and Taiwan Cogen Corp.
In a press statement, the locators said: “Tourism operators and others within the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Freeport disagree with Piano’s assessment that the fight is over for the Subic coal-fired power plant.
The overwhelming majority of the community wants the plant located elsewhere due to worries about its impact on tourism and the quality of life in Subic Bay.”
The locators said they were aware that the coal plant was issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) during the administration of then President Gloria Mcapagal-Arroyo, but “[we] also know that the approval process was deeply flawed in that it discounted the overwhelming opposition of local stakeholders.”
“The proponents are only cleared to build a 300-MW plant which is not as profitable as a larger facility or as effective in meeting the future power needs of Luzon,” they said.
“The proponents have already declared their intention to build a 600-MW facility. To exceed 300 MW, the proponents must get SBMA clearance, and SBMA has just ordered that this project be subjected to a ‘social acceptability process.’ Thus, the proponents’ chances of gaining approval for more than 300 MW are dim indeed unless community concerns are addressed.”
Given the circumstances, the locators said, “either the proponents fully offset the negative impact of a coal-fired power plant on this site or they must move it elsewhere.”
SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said the plant that will be built by RP Energy, the consortium put up by Aboitiz, Meralco and Cogen, would have to go through another social acceptability process.
Zambales Vice Governor Ramon Lacbain II said provincial officials were planning to go to Congress to help establish “how this coal plant project was issued an ECC when it is very clear that it is not socially acceptable to the people.”
Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. belied reports that his opposition to the project had subsided. He said he had just signed a provincial board resolution opposing the establishment of the power plant.
He also asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cancel the ECC issued to the project.
The Olongapo-Zambales Civil Society Network (OZCSN) said “the grim environmental and economic impact of a coal-fired power plant on Subic Bay is long lasting, far outweighing its perceived and unproven benefits to our local economy, which ironically relies heavily on tourism.”
“We urge Mr. Piano and the rest of the SBFCCI members not to lose out in the fight that is just starting. It is far from over and it is gaining more support not only within the Philippines but also with the international community,” said Alex Hermoso, lead convener of the OZCSN.
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