In a public hearing Friday at the municipal gym here where Conal Holdings Corp. presented its proposed 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant, the general sentiment was for the construction of the US$450-million project.
Proponents said the project will help ease the expected shortfall in power supply by 2012.
But the local Catholic Church is opposing the plan for environmental and health reasons.
Fr. Romeo Catedral, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel, said “tons of sulfur oxides, carbon dioxide and other particulate matters” will destroy the environment and inflict long-term damage on the health of residents surrounding the project site.
The opposition also explained their position to reporters who attended the hearing.
CHC vice president for business development Joseph Nocos however explained that present technology will allow them to regulate emissions well below the standards set by the Philippine Clean Air Act as well as the more stringent ceilings set by the World Bank.
Nocos said they would be more than willing to present in details all the technical aspects of their project to anyone who will care to listen.
“These points are very technical and unless one is adept and into it, these may not be easily comprehensible in layman’s terms,” he said.
There were occasional catcalls and jeers as well as cheers but none of the fireworks that are expected when opposing camps meet head-on.
Instead, a healthy debate and civil exchange of questions and answers took place during the hearing, which is a requirement prior to the issuance or non-issuance of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the project to proceed as planned.
The questions and issue range from perceived fears, legitimate concerns on the impact of the project to the environment and general health of residents of the host village of Kamanga and neighboring villages of Maasim, as well as technical aspects of the plant including numbers and symbols of all the particulates and gaseous emissions.
The results of the hearing will serve as the basis for the issuance or non-issuance of an ECC by the Environment Management Bureau.
A team from the EMB’s environment impact assessment division headed by Paula Eugenio listened to the project briefing as well as took notes of the position papers presented by both the pro and anti groups who attended the hearing.
The team, however, declined to give a timetable for the release of its decision.
The proposed coal-fired power plant is expected to generate 200 megawatts of power supply by 2012.
To be built at the cost of US$450 million, the proposed power plant site is located in Barangay Kamanga in Maasim.
Construction is expected to begin in the last quarter of this year.
Last year, Transco Mindanao warned of a shortfall in power supply following steady growth in demand unless new generating plants are put into commission.
Industry sources said demand in power supply is steadily growing at 4.3 per cent every year.
Next year, a shortfall of 84 megawatts will reportedly face the Mindanao power grid.
It will further increase to 174 megawatts in 2011 and by 270 MW in 2012.
Only the 42.5 MW Sibulan hydro power plant Davao del Sur is set for commission later this year.
The crowd that went to the hearing spilled over to the grounds of the municipal plaza with many complaining they were denied entry and a chance to listen to the arguments from both sides.
Maasim Mayor Anecito Lopez Jr., whose support to the proposed project he made known unequivocally even before the hearing, said the crowd was more than the 3,500 they expected to show up.
Also in attendance were Kiamba mayor Rommel Falgui and executives of Conal Holdings.
Police estimated the crowd to be close to 5,000.
The gym’s seating capacity is only 2,500. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)