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New suit filed vs Subic coal plant

/ 10:59 PM June 14, 2012

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Members of an electric cooperative in Zambales have sued RP Energy, a consortium of energy firms planning to put up a coal-fired power plant inside this free port, and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), saying the firm had abandoned its plan to provide the province with cheap electricity.

Lawyer Edmund Dante Perez said members of the Zambales Electric Cooperative (Zameco) are asking the Iba Regional Trial Court to direct SBMA not to issue permits to RP Energy, a consortium led by Aboitiz Power, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and Taiwan Cogeneration Corp. (TCC).

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Perez said his clients—Eric Ebarle, Roy Obillo, Lyn Mercurio, Samuel Ablola and Citadel Dial—filed a civil case on June 5 because RP Energy had turned its back on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would have benefited Zameco.

“They say [the MOU is] already expired, but we think otherwise,” he said.

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Perez said the July 28, 2006 MOU between SBMA and TCC, RP Energy’s predecessor-in-interest, showed that Zameco would directly benefit from the project for its reliable and affordable source of energy.

But in July last year, after Meralco entered the consortium and signed a shareholder agreement giving the firm majority control of RP Energy, the complaint said “both [SBMA and RP Energy] began espousing the theory that the February 2006 and July 28, 2006 MOUs had either expired or were superseded by the lease development agreement dated June 8, 2010.”

“[This] means that they will no longer honor their obligation of providing reliable and affordable energy to the intended beneficiaries of the MOU, among which are [the complainants],” it said.

Perez said this “perverted stance” became more apparent in RP Energy’s letter to SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia on July 8, 2011.

In that letter, he said RP Energy described the MOUs’ purpose as “a preliminary document.”

Zameco members asked the court to direct SBMA not to issue any building, construction and operation permit to RP Energy “pending the determination and translation of the objectives of the MOUs… to provide affordable power to Zameco and other beneficiaries.”

The project has been stalled by protests from environment advocates, business locators and government officials of Olongapo City and Zambales, who decried its impact on the environment and the lack of consultations.

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In December last year, SBMA held a series of stakeholder consultations on the proposed 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant but RP Energy failed to send its representatives to discuss the project and address the concerns of groups opposing it.

Garcia said SBMA knew that a case was filed against the agency and RP Energy. He said RP Energy had requested for a meeting with SBMA.

An SBMA official said the project is on hold until RP Energy meets the conditions set for the issuance of permits and improves the terms of the contract to ensure that this would not be disadvantageous to the government. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

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TAGS: electric cooperative, Regions, SBMA, subic coal plant
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