School draws ire of governor over coal plant stand
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Angered by an academic institution’s opposition to a proposed coal-fired power plant in the southern Palawan town of Aborlan, which is being backed by the provincial government, Palawan Gov. Jose Chaves Alvarez announced on Tuesday his administration would stop giving scholarships to at least 1,000 students currently enrolled at Western Philippines University (WPU).
“Next year, the provincial government will no longer have the scholarship program at WPU,” Alvarez told a crowd gathered at a groundbreaking ceremony for a hospital project of the provincial government.
Alvarez expressed dismay at WPU’s, a state school, formal opposition to a 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant contracted to DMCI Powers Inc. by the Palawan Electric Cooperative, the local power distributor.
WPU has sent the provincial government a position paper against the coal plant, which is also being opposed by cause-oriented groups, environmentalists and the Catholic Church in Aborlan.
The groups claim the power plant, which is to be fed by low-grade Semirara coal from DMCI’s coal mines in Antique, Panay, would destroy the environment.
Without hiding his displeasure upon seeing some officials of WPU at the launch of the hospital project, Alvarez said WPU students, who wished to continue being scholars, should transfer to another state school, the Palawan State University (PSU).
“Next year, you all transfer to PSU,” Alvarez said.
Late last year, the provincial government and WPU signed a memorandum of agreement for the scholarship program during ceremonies held at WPU campus in Aborlan where Alvarez is soliciting support for the coal plant.
WPU had formally opposed the coal plant project, which would be built close to the school’s main campus in Barangay San Juan, Aborlan.
Alvarez’s pronouncement caught off guard even some officials of the provincial government, who admitted the governor’s pronouncement was “not discussed internally.”
“I was surprised myself because he (Alvarez) did not talk about it until he spoke during the hospital’s groundbreaking ceremonies,” an official who asked not to be named, told the Inquirer.
The DMCI power plant project, already endorsed by the municipal and provincial governments, has been put on hold as residents in December succeeded in their bid for a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) from the Palawan Regional Trial Court against the plant.
The WPU has yet to issue a statement.
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