Civil society groups opposed to the planned coal-fired power plant in Palawan have slammed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) decision to issue the DMCI Power Corp.’ 15-megawatt circulating fluidized bed thermal power project an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and have called on residents to denounce it.
They also criticized Sec. Alfonso Cusi of the Department of Energy (DOE) for certifying the coal plant as an “Energy Project of National Significance” (EPNS), giving the DMCI Power the free rein to move past the required government processes to secure the ECC.
In separate statements sent to Palawan News (PN) the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) and the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) based in Manila, the Palawan Inter-Tribal Federation (PITF), Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE), and Save Palawan Movement (SPM) all said the coal project is a threat to the province’s ecosystem and the health of its people and their livelihood, particularly in Brgy. Bato-Bato, Narra, where it will be constructed.
The PITF, a local coalition of indigenous peoples (IP) groups in Palawan, said what the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR did in issuing the ECC is a back-stabbing move against residents who are only against a project that can potentially destroy not only the environment and the wildlife that lives in it, but most importantly, human lives.
It added further that the DENR just made the fight against climate change even harder for Palaweños who are only protecting the country’s “last frontier” against a destructive power project that is already being shut down in other countries.
“Walang kredibilidad kailanman at notoryus ang rekord ng DMCI sa paninira ng kalikasan, sila ang may kagagawan kung bakit maraming magsasaka at mangingisda ang nawalan ng kabuhayan sa isla ng Caluya sa Semirara dulot ng coal mining. DMCI din ang nagmamay-ari ng minahan ng nickel sa Brgy. Berong, Quezon na matagal ng nais ipatigil ng mamamayang Palawenyo dulot ng masamang epekto nito,” the PITF said.
CEED executive director Gerry Arances, also the convenor of the Power for People Coalition (PPC) and spokesperson of Murang Kuryente, said in a statement sent Thursday that they are dismayed with the DENR because the coal power “has long been contested as it will damage the ecosystem being enjoyed by the people in Narra”.
He said they also echo the worry of member-consumers of the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) that DMCI Power has a poor track record where reliable electricity is concerned due to its failure to deliver 25 megawatts of guaranteed dependable capacity based on the signed Power Supply Agreement (PSA).
“This failure should be basis enough for the rejection of its proposed project. Moreover, various studies have shown that solar, wind and micro-hydro dams would provide much cheaper sources of energy for Palawan,” Arances said in the CEED statement.
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Arances further pointed out that the DOE’s issuance of EPNS certificate to the coal project under Executive Order No. 30 “is contrary to the principles of transparency and accountability which should govern overall permitting processes and development projects”
“We reiterate that EO 30 violates the rights of our residents as citizens and as consumers,” he said.
PACE and the SPM in a joint statement sent also Thursday have assailed the DENR, claiming it should have not granted the ECC on the ground that the DMCI Power’s coal plant poses serious environmental and health risks to Palawan residents and the Palawan Island Power Development Plan (PIPDP).
“These threats are real and adequately documented and are the primary reasons why most developed and developing countries have shunned coal technology altogether. Palawan need not suffer the negative consequences of coal plant emissions and regret it later,” both civil society groups said.
With the PIPDP that was adopted by the DOE, PALECO and the provincial government in 2014, PACE and SPM said the DENR should have been aware that there was no longer any need to entertain the ECC application for coal.
They said it is also “questionable and assailable” that the DMCI Power coal plant was included in the list of EPNS of the government when there is “no electricity supply problem” in Palawan.
“The problems we are currently dealing with involve transmission system issues and the inefficiency of the independent power producers (IPPs) operating in the province. The negative performance track record of DMCI in failing to deliver its 25-megawatt guaranteed dependable capacity since it began operations in Palawan should also have been a major consideration for the outright denial of DMCI’s ECC application,” they said.
“The Save Palawan Movement calls upon the enlightened citizenry to denounce the action of the DENR and demand the revocation of the ECC it issued to the power company,” they added.
The environmental activist group Kalikasan PNE, on the other hand, said the approval of the project is opening Palawan to more threats of pollution and biodiversity loss.
“DMCI’s coal plant once again rises from the grave and raises the specter of toxic pollution threatening public and ecological health in Palawan. Coal is undeniably the dirtiest source of energy and has no place in the country’s most biologically diverse yet fragile ecosystems. Any new coal power plant established is also one step further towards a runaway climate crisis,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE said in a statement obtained by PN.
It said the “constant release of particulate matters, coal ash waste, wastewater, and other pollutants from coal power plants will gravely disrupt the balance in Palawan’s ecosystems.
“There is no such thing as ‘clean coal’ that can fully mitigate the pollution produced by coal, especially its climate-disruptive greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dulce.
He said they condemn the DOE’s designation of Palawan as an EPNS when “clean and renewable energy sources should be the priority in environmentally critical areas.”
Dulce said the only reason why DMCI Power is pushing for coal is due to its need for a dumping ground for its excess coal reserves from Semirara.
“Secretary Cusi should be held accountable for this latest instance of his dirty energy agenda as a coal apologist. Cusi and other public officials involved in these repeated attempts at railroading the Palawan coal plant and other dirty power projects must be investigated,” he ended.