Saturday, August 20, 2011

Zambales govt passes resolution vs. Subic coal plant

MANILA, August 21, 2011—Campaign against coal-fired power plants in Subic, Zambales continues as the Provincial Board voted unanimously and approved a resolution upholding the ban of erecting a coal-fired power plant in any parts of the province.
In a statement dated 17 August 2011, Vice Governor Ramon Lacbain II said that former General and Department of Works and Highways (DPWH) chief, and now the Governor of Zambales Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., had signed Board Resolution No. 2011-149 that strongly opposes the erection of the coal-fired thermal plant in Sitio Cawag, in Subic.
“When I accidentally came to know about this project during the presentation of the SBMA [Subic Base Metropolitan Authority] Ecology Center together with Taiwan Cogen before the municipal council of Subic, Zambales sometime in 2007, I immediately relayed it to SUBRA [Subic Bay Resorts Association] which afterwards requested from the SBMA Ecology Center a presentation about the proposed coal plant in Subic Bay,” the vice-governor said in a statement.
SUBRA, together with People's Task Force on Hanjin & Subic Bay Inc. and the Greater Subic Bay Tourism Bureau (GSBTB), were the first organization that opposed the proposal.
The provincial vice chief also said that other cause-oriented groups as well as the local government of Olongapo City opposed the project. He also said that he was present during the deliberation and approval of early local government resolution that strongly opposed the erection of the plant.
Lacbain also said that he cannot recall any consultation made in connection with the proposed power plant, neither there is a strong approval for the erection of the electric-generation facility in Subic.
“I don't remember any meeting or public consultations I have attended regarding the proposed coal plant in Subic Bay where the participants accepted or endorsed the project. I was out of the provincial board from 2007-2010 but I can't recall any instance when the proponents made a presentation before the provincial board.
“I [have even] asked the board members during those period and they confirmed that no presentation was made before them during their session. Until, I was re-elected as vice governor last 2010 and had the chance to attend another presentation, this time by Aboitiz Power, before the municipal council of Subic, Zambales on the proposed project. But what surprised me is when I saw the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by former DENR secretary Lito Atienza. [I am] surprised because how come the ECC was issued when I can't remember any public consultations regarding the project where it was accepted or endorsed?” he said.
The Aboitiz Group (also known as the Aboitiz & Company, Inc.) is known as one of the oldest shipping magnate in the Philippines, which traces its roots with the hemp trading in Ormoc, Leyte during the 1800s.
Aside from shipping and trade, in 1930, the Aboitiz clan had also ventured in power industry development (generation and distribution). Today the Aboitiz Group is known as the biggest companies in the Philippines and having its share in real estate development, agriculture, ship-building, and tourism, being the owner of the elite resort, Amanpulo in the Palawan Island.
Nevertheless, Lacbain and other groups continue to question the issuance of the ECC for the construction and later, operation of the plant, which the world environmentalists and scientists had identified as “the number one carbon dioxide (CO2) emitter in the atmosphere”. CO2 is considered the agent of global warming and climate change.
Coal plant in Subic: socially unacceptable
As it would pollute the air and waters of the scenic Subic in Zambales, the vice governor and the opponents of the coal plant in Sitio Cawag see the project as socially unacceptable.
“The social acceptability of the project is questionable and considering that this is the most important requirement for the issuance of the ECC. Several months after Aboitiz Power and the SBMA Ecology Center made a presentation before the provincial board regarding the project, the individuals and organizations that allegedly had accepted or endorsed the project had never submitted any documents to justify the legality of the issuance of the ECC,” the Zambales second chief disclosed.
“In fact, new SBMA Director Philip Camara was even asking for an investigation of SBMA Ecology Center Manager Ameth Dela Llana for failure to submit the list of individuals and organizations that accepted or endorsed the project, as requested by Zambales provincial board,” he added.
Fight for coal plant-free Subic to continue
Despite the fact that the prospective investors might be shooed away because of the vehement opposition to the coal-fired power plant, the provincial government even encouraged the people of Zambales to continuously oppose the proposed project by the Aboitiz.
“The people of Zambales and Olongapo must not retreat but must continue, with even more active and strong determination, to oppose this project which is being continued despite the opposition from all sectors. This project will definitely have adverse effects on our environment, health and our tourism industry in Subic Bay but in return for all these sacrifices no direct benefit will go to the people: no real property taxes, no assurance of employment, no assurance of lower power rates, no assurance of environmental guarantee fund, no specific material or financial assistance to affected neighboring communities,” Lacbain said.
The vice governor had also stressed that there are cleaner energy sources that the government can tap and there is no excuse for pushing the coal-fired power plant erection in Subic Bay.
"Why insist on this coal-plant project, most especially in Subic Bay that must be preserved for tourism and fishery industries? For the sake of our environment, our health, our tourism and fishery and most especially our children's future—let's continue to oppose this project and finally get the cancellation of the ECC,” the vice governor said. (Noel Sales Barcelona)

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