Masinloc folk oppose coal plant expansion | Inquirer News
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Masinloc folk oppose coal plant expansion

/ 02:23 AM October 19, 2011

Jeffrey Bautista was 15 years old when residents and municipal officials of Masinloc in Zambales rose to oppose a coal-fired power plant that the National Power Corp. (Napocor) wanted to build in their place to address the energy deficit in the 1990s.

“We knew that it would be bad for the environment as well as ourselves,” Bautista says of the proposed 600-megawatt coal plant. “We fought really hard against it.”

“I was just a student then. We held rallies, put up banners [denouncing the government] for wanting to build the coal plant. You could see them everywhere. Everyone was against the coal plant,” he says.


Construction of the coal plant, however, pushed through as then President Fidel V. Ramos used the power of his office to stop the opposition to the project.


Ramos “had to send troops to control the crowd here,” says Bautista, now the municipal vice mayor. “He came to Masinloc at least three times [to press his case]. The coal plant would not have been built if it were not for Ramos’ [intervention].”

Harmful effects

Many years later, Bautista says all their fears had come true when the harmful effects of the plant’s operation since 1998 became obvious to residents.

The most affected are farmers and fishermen, Mayor Desiree Edora says. “They say their crops have been affected. The fruits of trees, especially mango trees, for which we are well-known for, have been stunted. They do not grow as big as before. Fishermen report less catch.”

Edora says this represented a significant impact because most residents derive their income from farming or fishing.

Aside from ash that rains down on the town, the coal plant spews out its waste materials directly into the Oyon Bay, the mayor says.


Edora acknowledges that the town has benefited financially from the plant’s presence through a fund set up by Napocor. “But that’s the only positive thing that this coal plant has brought us here. It is a source of revenue,” she says.

She says the national government, through the Department of Energy, has yet to pay Masinloc at least P70 million in accumulated earnings as the coal plant’s host community.

In 2008, the plant was acquired by the US-based AES Corp. from Napocor. AES, which became the largest foreign investor in the country’s power sector, is a global power company with generation and distribution businesses in 30 countries. It owns and manages $40 billion worth of assets.


But by then, the coal plant had deteriorated and AES had to spend more than $1 billion for its rehabilitation. An Asian Development Bank (ADB) report before the AES acquisition says “the operating performance of the plant has declined since 2001 because of inadequate maintenance and insufficient capital investments in anticipation of the planned privatization.”

Lack of spare parts has become a major concern, it says. “Unit 1 had a major overhaul in 2005 (the first since commercial operations began in 1998) but there has been no major overhaul of Unit 2. The plant’s operations have been characterized by low capacity, poor availability, low reliability, and violations of environmental, health and safety conditions. The plant’s emissions are unable to meet dust emission limits at any load.”

Andrew Horrocks, AES country chair, says his company has been applying for an environmental compliance certificate for the expansion of the plant. The company expects to complete other permits by November.

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Horrocks says the first phase of the project includes the construction of a 300-MW coal plant, which will be completed by 2015. The second phase will see the remaining 300 MW going online by 2018, should there be a demand for more power at that time.


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