Zambales leaders reject coal plant
SUBIC Bay Freeport—Zambales leaders on Friday rejected plans for the construction of a 600-megawatt coal-fired plant here, during a public hearing that was arranged by a consortium of energy firms to convince government to issue an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the project.
The hearing was hosted at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center by Lormelyn Claudio, Central Luzon director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
Claudio said the forum was initiated by the EMB and the Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy) “as input to the review and evaluation being done by the [environmental impact assessment] review committee [that validates projects before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources approves an ECC application].”
RP Energy is a consortium composed of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), Aboitiz Power Corp. and Taiwan Cogeneration, which was commissioned to build the plant to harness fresh power supply for the Luzon grid by 2015.
Its ECC application will amend the original ECC it acquired since RP Energy has decided to increase the proposed plant’s capacity from l,300 MW to 600 MW.
Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. assailed the DENR for issuing the first ECC without a public consultation.
Addressing RP Energy, Ebdane said, “You should be honest, and give honest answers to [questions raised by residents].”
Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II said the operators of the coal plant will pay the Subic Bay Freeport P1 million only, which, he noted, is “a far cry” from what the coal plant in Masinloc, Zambales, is paying.
He said the Masinloc plant operator, the American energy giant AES Corp., pays the local government P300 million in real property taxes.
Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay was in the Visayas but she sent a text message that she was opposing the project.
Lacbain expressed surprise at the number of Subic town residents who attended the forum. Thousands of residents on 200 jeepneys were driven to the venue, a 30-minute drive from the town.
As soon as they arrived at 7 a.m., employees of a popular fast-food restaurant served the participants breakfast meals. They also served them lunch later in the day.
Ricardo Torres, a driver hired by village officials of Naugsol in Subic, said the 200 jeepneys plying the Olongapo-Subic route were each paid P1,100 to transport the residents. “This is good, so you can hear [both sides of arguments regarding the coal-fired plant to be developed by RP Energy],” Lacbain said.
In a press conference after the hearing, Aaron Domingo, executive vice president and general manager of Meralco PowerGen, said RP Energy has no plan to relocate the project because the consortium has a valid contract with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
The SBMA board of directors, however, had urged Malacañang to transfer the project elsewhere, after RP Energy failed to win support at a social acceptability conference it organized last year.
Asked about reports that RP Energy paid to transport Subic town residents to the hearing, Domingo said they “came on their own.”
In a press statement, RP Energy said “majority of the people of Zambales support the building of the Subic coal-fired plant to avert the shortages in Luzon in the years to come.” Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon
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