Two leaders named Gerardo in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental have different views as to the eyed establishment of the coal-fired power plant in their area.
Mayor Gerardo Valmayor Jr. said yesterday that it is still unclear whether the coal-fired power plant in the city will be established or not, as the local government unit is still evaluating its pros and cons.
But Bishop Gerardo Alminaza is certain that the Diocese of San Carlos and other dioceses in Negros Island will stand against its construction in the city that is known for its best practices on environment conservation and sustainability.
Both Gerardos were in the same venue yesterday at the Benedictus Center of the Bishop’s House in San Carlos City for the People’s Eco-Forum that focused on the impacts of the proposed 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant by SMC Global Power Holdings Corp., the power arm of conglomerate San Miguel Corp.
The Department of Energy has already issued SMC Global Power clearance for grid impact study, which a power firm needs before it can proceed with the construction of a project, on August 1, based on the documents furnished from the DOE website.
The company is eyeing to install a 300-MW CFB (circulating fluidized bed) coal-fired power plant. With CFB technology for coal-combustion, it is pegged that up to 95 percent of pollutants can be absorbed before being emitted to the atmosphere, achieving lower emission of pollutants.
‘COLLEGIAL STATEMENT’ EXPECTED
In an interview with the media, Alminaza said that San Carlos Diocese is standing against the construction and operation of the plant, adding that other dioceses in Dumaguete, Kabankalan, and Bacolod will support their stand through a collegial statement.
He said it is expected that the statement will come out before Sunday, in time for the celebration of Christ the King, signifying the start of the advent season for Catholics.
Alminaza added that he is just waiting for the approval of bishops Julito Cortes, Louie Galbines, and Patricio Buzon of the statement they drafted expressing their opposition.
Apart from the support within the dioceses in Negros, Alminaza is also eyeing the support of the Archdiocese of Jaro in Iloilo City.
Earlier, the Diocese of San Carlos called on the local government of San Carlos and the provincial government of Negros Occidental to disapprove any proposal for building a coal-fired power plant in the city.
Alminaza said that, instead of SMC Global investing on a coal-powered plant, they must develop sources of renewable energy.
The statement also quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” that said, “if we do not listen to the earnest appeal of the Holy Father…the most vulnerable victims of such decision with irreversible consequences to our environment are the poorest people”.
Alminaza stood firm in the stand of the diocese against the coal plant, saying that he is generating quite a good support from the young and other non-profit organizations.
He was joined by representatives from the National Secretariat for Social Action/Caritas Philippines, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, and Center for Environment and Energy Development, to discuss the best ways to proceed with their ecological advocacy during the forum yesterday.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about how we see ourselves as being entrusted by God with all these resources. It should not be utilized like it is limitless and not even caring for the next generation,” Alminaza said.
NO OFFICIAL STAND YET
Meanwhile, Mayor Valmayor, in a separate interview, clarified that the city has not yet came up with a concrete stand on the establishment of a power plant in San Carlos as they will evaluate both the positive and negative effects of establishing it.
“We still do not have an official stand on the matter as we have not received an official request from SMC for their plan to put up a coal-fired plant in the city,” Valmayor said.
He said the city government is aware of the interest of SMC to put up the plant in San Carlos. In fact, Valmayor and other officials were invited to see the company’s plant in Davao to observe their operation, he added.
The mayor added they also went to Toledo and Naga City in Cebu and met with their city officials on the operation of coal-fired power plant in their areas.
“So far, we did not see any great negative effects from the areas we visited. But instead we saw that there were big benefits that were given to the hosts of coal plants,” Valmayor told the media.
“We will evaluate the establishment and its pros and cons…the negative effects and the benefits that the city will get in terms of taxes, special educational fund, among others…We will look at it that way,” he added.
Emphasizing the uncertainty of the green light for the project, the mayor said they are preparing for it, given that San Carlos has been recognized and awarded because of its best practices in environment conservation.
Very likely, it will have big amounts of carbon emissions, Valmayor said, but we will see to it that we will require the proponents to work with the LGU to help its mitigation.
Among the programs he mentioned to mitigate the carbon emissions are reforestation using the city’s funds and in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the proponent of the plant.
He said the city has not given a permit to SMC, but the two barangays in San Carlos – Punao and Palampas – have already passed separate resolutions in their local councils that they are open to host coal plants but not to anybody specifically.
The resolutions were endorsed to the city council and concurred in with the decision of the barangays that they are open to host the plant, Valmayor added.
DOE: ‘IT DEPENDS ON THE LGU’
Rey Maleza, OIC chief of the Energy Industry Management Division of DOE-Visayas Field Office, said yesterday that the establishment of the coal plant would still depend on the decision of the LGU.
He said DOE’s mandate is to provide stable source of energy, however, the agency has a commitment that a certain percentage of the power supply should come from renewable energy and minimize the dependency to source out power outside of the country.
“The government does not prohibit any type of energy, provided that, during the construction and operation of the particular power source, it (the power firm) is compliant with all local and national laws,” Maleza said.
“It is the right of the LGU to decide. They have their own permits to approve for the operations of certain plant,” he said, adding that, “Sometimes, we urge them to reconsider the establishment of power plants, especially if the agency saw a great need for access to power source in the area.”
Based on the DOE’s record as of September, there are 17 power plants in the whole of Negros Island, with a total power capacity of 657.9 megawatts, including those grid connected and embedded plants.
The 657.9 MW is only about 19.8 percent of the total power capacity produced in the whole of Visayas at 3,316MW. The Visayas power plants only share 15 percent of the net power capacity in the whole of the Philippines.
It further showed that out of the 17 plants in Negros, only one is getting its power from a non-renewable resource, and the rest is operated through geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, and solar energy.
However, despite the number of power plants in the island, Maleza said Negros Occidental is still depending for its power outside of the province, like in Panay, Cebu, and Leyte.
He added that 30 to 40 percent of the source of electricity consumed in the Visayas comes from coal-fired plants and it increases up to 50 percent during peak hours, while the rest is from renewable energy.
By: Mark Garcia