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New Batangas gov to allow coal plants if ‘requirements’ met

BATANGAS CITY—The campaign against fossil fuels may have to face more challenges as the newly elected governor, Hermilando Mandanas, has said he remains open to approving coal-fired power plant projects in the province.

Mandanas, who also served as governor from 1995 to 2004, returned to the post on May 11 after winning over his rivals Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza and Jose Antonio Leviste II. An independent candidate, Mandanas got 337,399 votes, while Mendoza of the Nationalist People’s Coalition garnered 293,091 votes and Leviste the of Liberal Party got 291,878 votes.

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On May 4, Mandanas attended the “Piglas Batangas! Piglas Pilipinas!” campaign against coal plants in Batangas City, which was part of the Break Free from Fossil Fuels movement spearheaded by civil society groups in different parts of the world. The campaign aims to end the operations of coal plants all over the world as they emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Even as he expressed support for the event, however, Mandanas said he would give coal-fired power plants the green light “if they comply with certain requirements.”

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“There will be a process, technology.  Don’t wash coal in the mine site because that will be an environmental hazard.  The coal will be processed—all the sulfur, metallic toxic will be physically segregated—they will not go back to the rivers and sea.  The emissions should also have a lower level like natural gas,” he said.

“If we control the level of toxicity coming in, the processing will just be like natural gas.”

Mandanas said even if he approved coal plant projects, raising the standards equated to making sure their operations in Batangas would not harm the environment. “We cannot just go against, against, against. We need to have an alternative.”

His rival, Leviste, however, said Batangas should prioritize clean energy. “I will rather invest our time and resources on research and development of alternative and clean energy. We already started the solar farm in Calatagan,” he said.

Calatagan is host to a 63.3-MW solar farm developed by Solar Philippines.

DMCI Holdings Inc. operates a 600-MW coal-fired power plant in one of Batangas’ municipalities, while JG Summit, of the Gokongwei group, plans to put up two 300-MW coal plants in Barangay Pinamucan Ibaba in Batangas city.

The mayoralty candidate who vowed to reject the application of JG Summit lost to her rival.

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Kristine Balmes of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan lost to Beverly Dimacuha-Mariño of the Liberal Party.

Balmes earlier said she would convince her party mate, now presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, to change his procoal stance.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who headed the Break Free campaign in Batangas City, said raising the standards for coal-fired power plants would not just cut it.

“Our call is to not allow coal-fired power plants in Batangas completely,” he said.

“Clean coal is a dirty lie,” Aaron Pedrosa, secretary general of Sanlakas party-list said. He added that even if companies promised stricter and stronger standards against emissions, local government units often lacked the capacity to monitor the compliance of coal companies.

Naderev Saño, executive secretary of Greenpeace Southeast Asia,  said they would continue to mobilize communities against coal plants and block any proposed operations in the province.

“Will they be able to build another coal plant in Batangas City? Over my dead body,” Saño said. RC/rga

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TAGS: Batangas, Climate Change, coal plants, coal-fired power plant, environment, fossil fuel, Hermilando Mandanas
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