Maitum holds forum on coal plant but feasibility study not presented

Conal Holdings Corp, owned 60 percent by the Alcantara Group of Companies and the rest by Thailand’s biggest power producer, Electricity Generating Public Company, plans  to build a 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in this coastal town. The project costs about $350 million.
 
A company official announced in January that the feasibility study would be completed not later than March.

But Gregorio S. Gonzales, Jr., the project’s power plant manager, said they are still running several tests, thus the delay in the completion of the feasibility study.
 
“Among these test studies are the soil, geological and hydrographic surveys. In effect, what we are trying to ascertain is if the soil can carry the weight of the coal plant building,” he explained, adding that Conal is considering outside investors to beef up capital expenditures.

Gonzales said data collection maybe completed in May, after which results will be submitted to experts in Finland to know if additional tests are still needed.
 
In this town, the proponents are eyeing a property in the village of Calaong reportedly owned by the family of Mayor Elsie Lucille Perrett, who was a no show at the forum for still unknown reasons.

The property, according to Mr. Gonzales, is about 800 meters from the shoreline.

The forum was attended by around 200 people, most of them against the power plant project.

Most of the participants raised questions on the environmental and health impacts of the project.
 
Gonzales told forum participants that if they will not support the project, they would look for another area. The other town in Sarangani that the proponents are eyeing for the project is Maasim, particularly in the village of Amanga, Gonzales said.

Jasper E. Inventor, climate and energy campaigner for the environmental group Greenpeace, told the participants that the ill-effects of a coal-fired power plant on health and environment cannot be felt immediately.
 
“It takes several years before the negative impact will rear its ugly head. Most coal plants in the country that we’ve studied by ash sampling tested positive for harmful elements like mercury, arsenic, lead and chromium,” he said.
 
Mercury emissions from a coal-fired power plant, for instance, will affect communities within a radius of 600 kilometers, he told reporters later.
 
Inventor told residents the right time to oppose the project is now when the proponents are still conducting studies.
 
“It’s very difficult to stop such a project if it is already operating because by then you’re already talking of economics such as the many businesses that will be dependent on it,” he said.
 
The Alcantara Group of Companies announced in September 2007, during the 16th Mindanao Business Conference held in neighboring General Santos City, that they are going to construct the $350 million 200-megawatt coal-fired power in Sarangani province by the late quarter of 2008.
 
It was also announced that the plant’s capacity will be expanded to 900 megawatts in 200 to 300 megawatts increment to keep in step with the growth of  Mindanao’s economy.

According to its website, the Alcantara Gorup of Companies’ interests “span a wide range of industries, including power generation, agribusiness, forestry, transportation, real estates development and construction-related industries.”

Sarangani Governor Miguel Dominguez is related to the owners of the Alcantara Group. Dominguez’ mother, Rosvida, is an Alcantara.

Before running for and winning the gubernatorial post in May 2004, Dominguez, was an official of one of the companies of the Alcantara Group.

A 1999 graduate of AB Economics minor in Rural Development from the Boston College in the United states, Dominguez immediately joined the family business as a management trainee based in Alabel, Sarangani. By 2003, he had become National Sales and Marketing Manager of the Alsons (Alcantara and Sons) Aquaculture Corporation, “earning for the brand ‘Sarangani Bay’ a strong hold in the international markets, particularly in the US, Japan and Europe.” (MindaNews)

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