Conal Holdings ‘close’ to signing contract with builder of 200mw coal plant

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/1 March) – The Alcantara-led Conal Holdings Corp. is on the end stages of the detailed design and engineering studies for its $450-million coal-fired power plant in nearby Maasim, Sarangani province, a senior company executive said.

But Joseph Nocos, Conal Holdings vice president for business development, did not disclose on the contractor the company is eyeing to construct the 200-megawatt power plant, despite claiming they are close to signing the contract with the plant builder.

The plant should start construction in the first quarter of this year, as the company announced last year, but this might not push through as Nocos noted that site development could still start “in the next three to four months.”

“A formal announcement will be made when the construction will begin. The major sign when we will begin [building the plant] is when we announce the hiring of construction workers,” he said in a local radio program apparently sponsored by the company on Monday.

MindaNews sought the Manila-based Nocos by phone on Tuesday for clarifications but he did not respond.

The power plant, which would source imported coal from Kalimantan in Indonesia, will rise near a world-class scuba diving spot, one of Sarangani’s top tourism spots. The plant is stoutly opposed by the local Catholic Church and various local groups on concerns on the environment.

Last year, the opposition against Conal Holdings earned international momentum when the “Rainbow Warrior,” Greenpeace’s vintage advocacy ship, sailed to Maasim town to ask the proponent to cancel the coal-fired power plant

Nocos told the radio program that the company has essentially complied with the requirements to operate a coal-fired power plant, citing the Environmental Compliance Certificate as foremost of them.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources granted Conal Holdings an ECC in 2009.

Other necessary permits will be applied after Conal Holdings will have completed the detailed design and engineering aspect, he added.

Conal Holdings is 60 percent owned by the publicly listed Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc. and the rest held by the Electricity Generating Public Co. Ltd., Thailand’s largest power producer.

The company announced during the 16th Mindanao Business Conference here in September 2007 its plan to build a coal-fired power plant, which was initially set to commence the following year.

In November 2009, Conal Holdings announced anew that construction of the power plant would begin in the first quarter of 2010.

John Heitz, an American expatriate crusading against the coal power project, has suspected the delay in the start of the construction may be “caused by the difficulty of the company to get a financing.”

Nocos was repeatedly asked for an explanation on the delay in various occasions but he remained mum.

But he confirmed that among the potential investors are Aboitiz Power Corp and Toyota Tsusho. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)