LGUs oppose SBMA on coal plant project

Randy Datu

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Local government units and residents in and around the Subic Freeport Zone continues to oppose a coal plant project supported by top Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority officials

NO TO COAL. Residents of the Subic Freeport Zone hold tarpaulins protesting the coal plant project. Photo from 'No to coal plant in Subic Bay's' Facebook

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – Local government units and residents in and around the Subic Freeport Zone will continue to oppose a coal plant project despite the apparent support of top Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials.

Olongapo City Mayor James Gordon Jr told Rappler, SBMA should stop the coal plant project by Meralco, Aboitiz, and Taiwan Cogen, because the LGUs “are clearly against it, and they have known this for a long time now.”

“What else do we need to do to let them understand this is unacceptable to us?,” he said.

The consortium of energy firms led by Meralco are pushing for the coal plant project through the firm Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy), which recently got a much needed boost of support from the SBMA when it filed a motion for reconsideration to the Court of Appeals (CA) after its contract and Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) was nullified.

In a January 30, 2013 decision, the CA nullified the lease development contract and ECC of RP Energy after stakeholders of the Subic Freeport filed a Writ of Kalikasan in the Supreme Court against the project, due to the damage it will cause the environment of Subic and the
flawed process by which it was able to get an ECC under the Arroyo administration.

In response to the stakeholders’ concern, the CA did not issue a Temporary Environmental Protection Order [TEPO]) since the project was not yet operational, although it heeded stakeholders’ concerns and nullified the contract RP energy had with SBMA along with its ECC.

Opposing sides

SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia himself called the deal with RP Energy as “highly disadvantageous to the government,” as RP Energy would only have to pay the SBMA P1-M a year. Garcia even held the first ever social acceptability process in the SBMA of the coal plant project, where RP energy failed to get acceptance from stakeholders.

But in a move that favored RP Energy, Garcia led the filing of a motion for reconsideration for the CA to reinstate the same contract last February 19. RP energy followed with its own motion for reconsideration right after that, on February 22.

Garcia claimed in the motion for reconsideration that the SBMA should have the final say on the coal plant project and not the LGUs who will be affected by it.

But Olongapo Mayor Gordon said the city council of Olongapo has already passed two resolutions opposing the power project, just like Zambales Vice Gov Ramon Lacbain II and Zambales Rep Milagros Magsaysay, who have also filed and supported resolutions opposing the coal-fired power plant.

“We will oppose that because the health of our community is at stake here. The SBMA cannot decide this on its own, because we will all be affected by the coal plant” Gordon said.

Turning to Facebook

Residents of Zambales and Olongapo City has also taken to the social networking site Facebook, to air their concerns about the project. The Facebook page entitled “No To Coal Plant In Subic Bay” has attracted over 6,000 members, who have voiced their opposition to the project.

A certain William Best, a member of the page, posted, ” One cannot poison other communities and claim it’s none of their business because it’s good for SBMA. Mr. Chairman, you control a island but you exist surrounded by many, many citzens. They control their destiny, not you. Your lack of good citizenship is appalling. “

Jen Velarmino, also a member of the page, wrote, “SBMA does not need the approval of LGUS? Even on projects that will harm the people’s health and the environment?” – Rappler.com

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