City Council divided over Maasim power plant project

Atendido said they are still gathering enough information on the technical aspects of operating the plant and their possible effects to the environment. 

“We need to solicit the opinion of technical people,” he said.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod on Wednesday held a second en banc committee hearing after opposition to the proposed power plant, led by the Catholic Church, lobbied for the city council’s rejection of the project.

Councilor Meynardo Avila Jr., however, said the city council does not have jurisdiction over recommending or rejecting the proposed project as the host community is outside the city.

Being a chartered city, General Santos is not included in the list of local government units that the project proponent will have to secure endorsement from, for the issuance of an environment clearance certificate (ECC).
But John Ced, president of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the city council to consider their position as he pointed out that the city will lose its competitive advantage and production will surely suffer if power supply requirement are not met in the following years.

“We have to prepare for what we will need four or five years from now,” he said. 

National Grid Corporation of the Philippines corporate communication officer Belinda Canlas said the looming shortfall of power supply in 2012 is for real.

She said without new power plant in commission by 2013, General Santos and areas in Central

Mindanao will likely suffer from continuous power outages.

Representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and its line agency, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), failed to attend the Wednesday hearing.

The EMB, however, had conducted a public hearing on February 27 and is now already evaluating the environmental impact assessment (EIA) done by an independent body.

Officials of Conal Holdings Corporation, proponent of the $450-million (P23-billion) project, were present during the hearing and assured members of the city council that the technology and design of the power plant station in Maasim will be able to capture particulate matters, including sulfur and nitrogen oxides.

“Coal-fired power plants of 40 or 50 years ago were indeed environmentally destructive. But today’s available technology will already enable us to capture most, if not all, harmful particulates that may be emitted by the plant,” Conal Holdings Corporation vice president for business development Joseph Nocos later said after the hearing.

Nocos said it will take at least three years for a new entrant in the power industry to be able to commission a power plant.

“If you factor in the feasibility study and permitting stage, you add two more years,” he explained.

The Conal Holdings executive said they have already conducted several consultations prior to the public hearing and have already addressed concerns about the environment and health of residents surrounding the proposed power station site in Maasim. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)