Villar denounced for backing planned coal-fired plant in Negros Occidental
BACOLOD CITY — San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza and anti-coal groups in Negros Occidental on Friday slammed reelectionist Senator Cynthia Villar for supporting the proposed coal-fired plant to be built in the province.
“Of all people I didn’t expect to hear it from no less than Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, and supposed to be the leading among senatoriables in the recent survey,” said Alminaza said.
He asked if Villar had heard that coal-fired power plants had been closed in many places in the United States, Germany, and other European countries due to their effects on the environment.
Dr. Romana de los Reyes, Coal-Free Negros convenor, debunked the statement of Villar about a new technology where coal would become clean energy.
“Senator Villar, there is no clean coal technology,” De los Reyes said.
San Miguel Corp. Global Power is planning to install a 300-megawatt CFB (circulating fluidized bed) coal-fired power plant in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.
But the proposal was met with strong opposition from environmental groups.
Outgoing Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. in March declared Negros Occidental a “coal-free zone.”
But Villar told reporters during the inauguration of a biomass power plant in Victorias City in Negros Occidental on May 7 that coal-fired plants were attractive to poor countries like the Philippines because they produced power in the wake of high prices of electricity.
Villar said the coal-fired technology was allowed in the US due to new technology.
“Maybe, we should study the new technology where coal will also become clean energy,” she added. “If we will be able to make it, the coal issue will be less controversial.”
Bishop Alminaza, however, said Villar’s statement only revealed her “ gross ignorance and incompetence” as Senate committee chair on the environment and her lack of foresight.
“For her to say that coal-fired plants are very attractive to poor countries, like the Philippines, because they produce cheaper power shows how out of touch she is,” he said.
He cited the case of Iloilo which has at least three coal-fired power plants but has one of the most expensive power rates in the country.
De los Reyes called a lie the claim of SMC that a CFB coal plant was a clean coal technology.
She pointed out that the CFB technology only addresses the mitigation of two emissions–sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
“The CFB does not control many other emissions from a coal plant, including particulate matters and acid aerosols, which cause grave respiratory ailments,” De los Reyes said.
The CFB also does not address the problem of coal dust and coal ash, which cause serious skin allergies and respiratory difficulties.
They also contain toxic trace metals that cause serious health problems such as anemia, reproductive disorders, and neurological impairments, she said.
The CFB does not address the increased temperature of the water that the coal plant dumps into the nearby water body, resulting in much-decreased fish catch in nearshore waters, De los Reyes added.
Gerry Arances, Executive Director for the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, said energy from solar and wind remained the cheapest source of energy globally.
“Coal is also being abandoned internationally due to its financial risk and environmental cost,” Arances said.
Arances cited the report released last year by the International Energy Economics and Financial analysis stating that all new coal plants to be constructed in the Philippines are set to become “stranded assets.” Running them will mean higher costs for investors and consumers.
“The report also noted that plants already existing are in various levels of stranding because of risks attached to the dirty energy source,” he said.
“The timing of this statement is not only unfortunate, but it is also damaging for Senator Villar,” said Jun Mojica of Coal-Free Negros.
“Instead of speaking for the interests and the environment of the people of Negros, she has positioned herself against it by supporting the proposed coal-fired power plant,” he said. (Editor: Leti Z. Boniol)
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