President Aquino, Please have mercy!
June 21, 2012 · , http://www.manilatimes.net
Although newspapers do not call it a plea for mercy on the people, that is what media should call the plea Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority top officials recently made to President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Led by SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia, the officials requested the President to order the relocation of the 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant of a consortium called Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RPEI). In 2011, the consortium began to grade and prepare land within Subic and paid off some villagers to leave their communities —despite the vehement opposition of business groups, citizens, affected communities and local government officials.
The consortium is made up of the Aboitiz Power Corporation, the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and the very original project proponent, Taiwan CoGen Corp.
On May 4, the SBMA board finally reached its official position to reject the construction of the coal-fired plant in Subic and seek the President’s help. They asked the President to order the relocation of the project to another site, perhaps where the abandoned Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is.
Chairman Garcia said “widespread opposition to the coal plant” motivated the SBMA request to President Aquino. The SBMA officials highlighted the coal-fired power plant’s negative effect of downgrading “the value and attractiveness of Subic and its tourism industry.” The Aboitiz-Meralco-Taiwan consortium is set on building the coal-fired plant in Subic’s unique forest and marine environment. The coal plant will surely destroy that pleasant and rare scenic and biodiversity habitat.
“There are many other places to locate this coal plant in. But there is only one Subic Bay,” Mr. Garcia said.
No social acceptability
Earlier, SBMA under Chairman Garcia, submitted a report to Malacañang with the information that the Aboitiz-Meralco-Taiwan project had been rejected by Subic Freeport stakeholders at the legally required “social acceptability consultation process” held on December 7 to 9, 2011.
About 155 representatives of the area’s town and barangay local governments, the zone’s business and tourism locators, Freeport residents, landowners including the Aeta indigenous people’s communities, and workers of the various enterprises in the Freeport took part in the consultation. The consortium did not send any participants to the social acceptability meeting, which, according to law, is a requirement for all projects of this nature.
When asked, Raymond Cunningham, first vice president for business development of Aboitiz Power and a member of RP Energy Inc.’s steering committee, said: “If we are convinced that the overwhelming majority of people in this area do not want the project, we would go away.”
The Manila Times published a Sunday Page 1 and Page 2 special report devoted to the Subic coal-fired plant. The report detailed how virtually every segment of the Subic, Olongapo City and Zambales province population—as well as the public officials and city, town and provincial councils—had registered, in writing and in marches and demonstrations, in city and provincial council resolutions, their strong opposition to the Aboitiz-Meralco-Taiwan RP Energy project.
We also had a roundtable at The Times with consortium representatives. They said our fears and findings about coal-fired plants were based on the older kinds of coal plants. They claimed that the plant they were going to build would have zero particulate emissions and zero leaching of hazardous elements into the ground and into the aquifers. They tried to explain to us why their proposed coal-fired plant would be absolutely pollution free. They were describing something that still did not exist anywhere in the world. And they could not assure us that the Filipino and foreign managers and workers in their proposed “99.9 percent safe” coal-fired plant in Subic would be as efficient, devoted to duty and “perfect” as the Americans, Japanese, Russians and Ukrainians manning their failed nuclear power plants. Their answers to our questions failed to satisfy us.
Our research showed that people of the Subic Bay area, of Olongapo City, of Zambales province and neighboring places would suffer health problems if the Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc’s coal-fired project pushes through.
Not only the people of the present generation living in the area are going to be put at horrible health risks. Even the future generations will be endangered.
The emissions of the coal-fired power plant into the atmosphere, the leaching of toxic minerals and elements into aquifers, and the flow of these toxic materials into the waterways and the seas around Subic are like a silent sentence of death and misery.
That is why veritably everyone in Subic, Olongapo and Zambales opposes the project.
There are “matuwid na daan” corruption issues as well. Under suspicious circumstances, the old management of SBMA signed agreements and gave business permits to RPEI/Aboitiz to build the coal-fired plant. Suspicious also is the granting—without proper inspection processes and without benefit of proper design specifications—by the pre-Aquino administration Department of Environment and Natural Resources of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). These DENR officials of the previous administration violated the rules and the laws.
As Chairman Garcia is quoted to have said above the law calls for “social acceptability” of coal-fired plants before they can be built. The RPEI arrogantly refused to join consultations because they had sewn up the business with the former administration’s SBMA management.
The agreement with the old SBMA management is also grossly disadvantageous to the government. The present SBMA management under Chairman Garcia is in fact alsoagainst the project because of the insultingly low income Subic would get from the project if it pushes through. RP Energy would only be paying P1 million to SBMA every year, while other corporations with coal-fired plants pay as much as 10 times that amount to their host local governments.
Last year, the leading business and community leaders in Subic and Olongapo wrote President Aquino an open letter asking him to mercifully rescind government approvals suspiciously granted to the project.
Now, SBMA is asking for its relocation.
President Aquino, please have mercy.