Narrra Mayor Gerandy Danao has adeptly thrown to the public the fate of the proposed coal-fired power plant in Batang-batang. On media interviews, he has made it clear that he would not allow its operations as long as there are oppositions to it. Like Pontius Pilate, he would rather let the mob decide what a leader ought to do in resolving public issues of transcendental importance. Smart for a politician whose most recent claim to fame was his trouncing of the Demaala family’s hegemony in Narra.
But stripped of its nuances, the Mayor could have readily issued a Mayor’s permit to DMCI, and thus, spare the town of further rounds of consultations and series of IEC’s. After all, enough of those had been made by its proponents and by those against it. Necessary endorsements from Barangay, Municipal and Provincial legislative bodies had been secured and are in place. The biggest hurdle then was the project’s ECC which DMCI failed to get from DENR under former Sec. Gina Lopez. But the company surprised everyone with an ECC signed by current Sec. Roy Cimatu.
Although ECC is but a planning tool and not a permit by itself, it is, however, an assurance to all and sundry that environmental issues raised against the project have been thoroughly studied and cleared. More so, it has to pass through a strict environmental audits by eagle-eyed experts whose mandate includes striking down any project that will bring harm to Mother Earth. That makes getting an ECC both tedious and tough. But once a project survived the grinder and gets approved, its integrity becomes unassailable. Ready for implementation, all that a local chief executive could do is issue a permit. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Gov. Jose Chaves Alvarez has tangled with “watermelon activists” (green on the outside, red on the inside) on social media with blazing arguments for coal. He stressed that coal sustains the economic growth and development of the country which is what he is pursuing for Palawan. He even challenged the leader of the group to visit the coal-fired power plant in Atimonan, Quezon to see for themselves, if indeed, there are health issues related to the plant. The Governor also asked them to visit the coal-fired power plant in Bataraza and to validate their arguments against the reality on the ground.
It is worth mentioning that the Bataraza coal-fired power plant uses modern green coal technology particularly its use of electrostatic precipitator which is a mitigating device to prevent air pollution. it is an air cleaner that removes the ash particles coming from the boiler before it even reaches the stack chimney. This explains why you don’t see billowing smoke coming from the chimneys of modern coal-fired power plants. I was in Iloilo with some Board members a few years back to look at the coal-fire powered plant located on the fringes of the city. I remember going to the nearby Barangay Health Office to check on the effects of the plant on the health of the residents. I was shocked to learn that there are more cases of dog bites than those traceable to the coal plant.
Time to change our paradigm on coal. With a price below 5/kWh, it is the cheapest and most dependable source of fuel to power our industry and propel economic growth. Coal is the leading fuel for electricity generation and supplies about 40 percent of the world’s power requirement.