PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – A Regional Trial Court has blocked the construction of the controversial DMCI coal-fired power plant in Palawan after receiving a complaint filed by locals.
Judge Ambrosio de Luna, the environmental court judge of Palawan, issued an order on December 12 to extend a 72-hour temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) against the proposed coal plant.
The order prevents the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) from granting a special permit to the project that will allow the Consunji-led DMCI Power Corp to start the construction of the facility.
Residents of Aborlan town, the proposed location of the coal plant, questioned the legality of an endorsement given by their local officials for the facility. The endorsement of the local government unit is a requirement for the construction of power plants in Palawan. The residents complained DMCI Power Corp and the local officials did not hold proper public consultation.
“They didn’t even submit a proposal to us. They didn’t even give us the exact location of the power plant. How can we evaluate you when you are not giving us papers?” asked Lita Sopsop, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the Western Philippines University, a school in Aborlan.
Aborlan locals and environmentalists said the coal-fired plant will only damage surrounding ecosystems and pose health risks to nearby communities.
They fear that waste from the coal plant, such as bottom and fly ash produced from the combustion of coal, could endanger declared fish sanctuaries in the area.
“Fishing is the livelihood of people there. The discharge of waste water from the coal plant will cause thermal pollution that is hazardous to the marine ecosystem, especially coral reefs,” explained Sopsop.
Palawan’s energy woes
DMCI Power Corp was awarded a supply contract by the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco) in 2011 to sell 25 megawatts of energy to the Palawan mainland grid by building two coal-fired facilities to be fed with coal from the company’s mining business in Semirara in Antique, Panay.
But environmentalists insist that coal is not the right investment for Palawan, a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. Coal is a non-renewable source of energy and a type of fossil fuel. The combustion of fossil fuel causes air pollution by releasing toxics and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are also responsible for global warming and climate change.
While the protection order is temporary, anti-coal campaigners are hopeful that the coal-fired plant will soon face a permanent road block.
“Hindi nasayang ang pagod namin at pagbibigay tulong ng lahat ng tiga Aborlan at Palawan (Our efforts and the help from Aborlan and Palawan residents were not wasted). We will continue fighting until DMCI leaves Aborlan and Palawan as well,” said Marlene Jagmis, a leader of the anti-coal campaign group Save Aborlan from Evil (SAFE).
Local governments in Palawan are trying to pursue more renewable energy as the solution to the frequent power outages and limited power supply that continue to plague the province. – With reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com