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Subic’s coal-fired plant must be cancelled

October 26, 2011 ·  , The Manila Times

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The people of the Subic Bay area, of Olongapo City, Zambales province and neighboring places will suffer if the Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc’s project to build a coal-fired power plant in a barangay within the territory governed by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority 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 health of future generations will be endangered.

The emissions of the coal-fired power plant into the atmosphere, the leaching of toxic minerals and element into aquifers, and the flow of these toxic material into the waterways and the seas around Subic are like a silent sentence of death and misery.

Veritably everyone in Subic, Olongapo and Zambales opposes the project.

Under suspicious circumstances, the old management and board of directors of SBMA signed agreements and gave business permits to RPEI/ Aboitiz to build the coal-fired plant.  Also suspicious is the granting—without proper inspections and without benefit of proper design specifications—by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to the project.  The DENR officials of the previous administration violated the laws and the rules when they gave the ECC.

The law calls for “social acceptability” of coal-fired plants before it can be built. This can only be established after consultations with all stakeholders—affected communities and families, civil society organizations, businessmen, local governments, etcetera— have been held. No such consultations were made.

The agreement is also grossly disadvantageous to the government.

Even the governments of Olongapo City and the Province of Zambales were not consulted. Both have registered their opposition to the project but the proponents have ignored them.

Open letter to the President
On page seven there is an open letter to President Benigno Aquino 3rd from some of the groups and individuals who are alarmed by the possibility that this project, which is being called the Meralco-Aboitiz Coal-Fired Power Plant, would be built, and destroy the environment, Subic-Olongapo tourism and damage the health of the population.

Dear PNoy,
We salute you in leading the way in canceling contracts crafted at the height of the GMA Administration that flaunt ethical and good governance standards and are inimical to the best interest of the Philippines. Amongst these are the Laguna lake dredging, RORO Port Projects, North Rail, PCSO supply contracts, etc.

Here in the Subic Freeport one such contract is the Lease and Development Agreement (LDA) secured by the RP Energy, Inc. for siting a 700MW Coal-fired power plant right at the entry of the Subic Bay on terms grossly disadvantageous to government and simply disastrous to huge investments already made in the eco-tourism sector that have made the Subic Freeport famous and popular while generating tens of thousands of jobs.

These “WANG WANG” terms for a Project that has very limited direct employment and a huge negative impact on tourism related employment include:
• Php1,000,000 per year for 40 hectares of prime bay-side, bay entry land.  (Php2.50/sqm/year only! at PV terms)
• Sheltered from realty and local taxes paid by other power plants amounting to P500m/year
• No obligation to sell power to the Freeport at lower than commercial rates to offset negative impacts as promised in Project Inception
• Not required to offer JV share to SBMA as promised at Project Inception
• Not required to pay Gross Revenue share to SBMA as required of such other locators in the Freeport.

In truth, there is no reason for this a project to be located within the Freeport when all of its power generated is simply for MERALCO, which is not even a distributor in the Freeport or its environs. It should be located outside the Freeport and compete with other power plants on an equal footing.

Billions of pesos and thousands of jobs in the Retirement, Medical Tourism, Leisure, Eco-Adventure sectors are threatened due to the highly negative public image of Coal-fired Plants. All of these tourism sectors have very high multiplier effects and are a ray of hope to the hundreds of thousands of people that are under- and unemployed in the region.

While the new SBMA Board is trying to address this situation in many ways it’s hands are tied as the Contract was approved by the previous administration obviously with help from well connected individuals.

From the crafting of the Contract to the issuance of its ECC it appears to us that this is a project resulting from a corrupted process.

We call on you, our beloved PNoy, to instruct the SBMA Board, the DoE, and the DENR to reject this project’s location, investigate the circumstances of it’s approval and require the proponents to relocate the project to a site less threatening to tourism jobs, public health, and the environment.

Early action, while the Project has yet to start contruction of the Plant itself will prevent the proponents from holding the Subic Freeport hostage to a possible power shortage in the upcoming years. If such is the case, a tremendous tourism jewel would have been sacrificed and in effect be monetized and transferred to private pockets.

***

We published a special report on the cruel effects of coal-fired power plants on human and animal health and the ecology on Sunday and since Monday a special report on the anomalous circumstances surrounding this project.

We hope President is moved by love of his people to instruct the present SBMA officials to cancel thie project.

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