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AMIDST the risks accompanied by the rapid pace of climate change and the government’s measures in dealing with them while supporting the coal-fired power plant that the environmental advocates categorically called as one of the culprits in contributing greatly to environment distraction and pollution, one may think on how the state balances the two opposing sides.
During the recent visit of Cabinet Sec. Karlo Alexei Nograles in the Province of Palawan, a question raised before him on how they would explain to the people of which they want to mitigate the hazards brought about by the climate change yet endorsing the coal-power plant, a very controversial topic when it comes to Palaweños. In the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD), we could remember that the chief executive ordered the concerned government agencies to fast-track the approval for renewable energy projects, in a bid to help decrease the pollution across the globe.
“Alam n’yo, ano rin kasi, there has to be a balance. While the president, in his State of the Nation Address has already said na bilisan ‘yung [pag-process ng] mga renewable energy [projects], may balance din na we also need a clean coal energy in the mix because kailangan din healthy ‘yung mix ng ating energy sources para mas maging reliable ang energy situation natin sa bansa; but the collatilla na if we go coal, it has to be clean coal technology,” Nograles said during the interview by the local media at Palawan State University on Nov. 25.
But Nograles clarified the statement and said that the President has always consistently pushed for more green energy into the mix.
“So, ‘yung sustainable energy projects, alam ng DOE ‘yan, na ‘yan ang tinutulak talaga ng Pangulo,” he added.
Regarding the coal project, Palaweños have separate contentions about its importance and its negative effects, and when concerned national leaders and official came to Palawan, the fourth estate can’t help but ask them related questions because the people are very eager to know.
Coal energy is not new to the province, as the mining company Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. (RTNMC) in Bgy. Rio Tuba in the Municipality of Bataraza already operates a similar plant, but the residents avoid or hardly share their experiences, especially the negative effects, if any, to their health and the environment.
The establishment of a 15-megawatt fluidized circulating bed (FCB) plant of DMCI Power Corp. (DPC) in Narra has always been a hot topic since it has given conditional approval by the PCSD last 2012 until it was fully endorsed by the Council a few years ago. The proposed plant will be the source of baseload energy for the Palawan grid, as the generator sets running today are just part of the mix loads, originally composed of a coal plant and engines.
COAL PLANT VISIT AT CALACA, BATANGAS CITY
In a press release posted by the Provincial Information Office (PIO) last October 31, they shared information about the study tour of the members of the Palawan media at Calaca Power Complex in Batangas City in order for them to see for themselves on how a coal plant operates, in relation to a plan of putting up a similar power source in Brgy. Bato-bato, Narra, Palawan.
The Calaca Power Complex has two power plants and it uses two different technologies, the 300 MW 2x FCB South Luzon Power Plant and the 600 MW Pulverized Coal.
In an interview conducted by the PIO, DMCI Power Corp. Assistant Vice President Loides Castro said that the technology they will be using in Narra is a 2x FCB for their 15 MW coal power plant.
She categorically denied the allegations thrown against them that the coal plant is dangerous to peoples’ health and as evidence, according to her, their 500 employees are actually living inside their compound. She also assured the Palawan media that their company is strictly following the rules of the Environment Department and actually has passed all of the requirements in order for them to operate once they get a nod from the LGU.
“It is not true na hindi dumaan sa proseso lalo na ang sa Narra, Palawan dahil in fact, since 2012 pa ay nagko-comply na kami sa lahat ng mga kinakailangang dokumento,” she explained.
Castro also invites the people who oppose the project to visit their plant to see personally the processes involved in running the said kind of technology. She likewise assures the Palaweños that they will provide a reliable yet economical supply of energy.
As of press time, the company awaits the endorsement coming from the local government unit of Narra in order to get the needed permit to operate the 15 MW plant, as they have now the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
ACTUAL EXPERIENCE ABOUT COAL
Meanwhile, the businessman and anti-coal advocate, Rante Ramos, shared his interviews in his recent visit to Toledo City, Cebu this month by posting the video on his social media account but did not mention the name of the company and the technology they are using.
“While in Toledo City I took time to visit this coal-fired power plant in Bgy. Looc and interviewed some locals living within a 500-meter radius. They do not deny the fact that the plant brought progress to their barangay, however, they are complaining about people, especially children, getting sick. Kati-kati sa balat ang [kanilang] common complaint at [ang paglanghap ng] noxious odor emanating from the plant, especially during loading of coal from barges,” he said.
Among the persons that he interviewed, he said, were guys who supplied the plant with limestone and a member of Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) “who personally opined against the existence of a coal-fired power plant in their barangay.”
“According to them, limestone is used, among other purposes, to mask the black smoke spewing from its gigantic chimneys and to neutralize its acidity,” he disclosed.
“Yung mother ng two young children na na-interview ko, nagsabing normal na ang pabalik-balik na ubo at sipon sa mga anak niya,” Ramos added.
And he also said that on September 24 this year, the plant had stopped in loading raw materials when the affected residents protested, who according to him, have suffered skin irritation and smelled a noxious odor.
Meanwhile, Ms. Cynthia Sumagaysay-del Rosario of Save Palawan Movement (SPM), who is known for her anti-coal stance, posted a caption as reaction to a news about the suspension of Semirara coal mining activities in their Anti-coal social media page on Nov. 22 and expressed her hopes that it will continue so that DMCI will not be able to operate in the province.
“At kung sinasabi ng iba na kesyo mayroon sa sur [ng Palawan], hindi natin kailangang dagdagan pa ang pinsalang ginagawa sa Palawan. Hindi rin natin kailangan ang kompanyang nagdudulot ng sakit sa ulo sa atin sa panay-panay na brownouts sa napakahabang panahon (mula pa 2013) dahil sa hindi pagtupad ng kontrata nila at sa mga palyado at maliliit nilang makina,” Sumagaysay said.
As of writing, Palawan Daily News (PDN) is trying to reach out to DMCI Power Corp. to get their side on the issue.