"CHC has taken extra measures to ensure that the reef is protected by designing the plant to use cooling towers instead of the usual seawater cooling system which would have entailed drawing of water from Sarangani Bay.
"Moreover, the plant will not discharge water into Sarangani Bay as an added measure to help protect the reef and the bay itself.
"While costlier and more tedious, this decision not to draw water from and discharge water into Sarangani Bay is consistent with CHC's commitment to sustainable development.
"Even the plant's fuel receiving facilities are designed to virtually eliminate any adverse impact on the bay of future coal deliveries, according to Gonzales who added that the entire fuel handling and receiving system of the plant will be fully enclosed.
"With these measures, the plant will not destroy the Tinoto-Tampuan Reef and Sarangani Bay.
"Gonzales said 'clean coal technology' is a concept that is defined not just by the Philippines' Department of Energy (DOE) but by the US DOE as well.
"Gonzales paraphrases the US DOE's definition of 'clean coal technology' as 'new generation of energy processes that sharply reduce air emissions and other pollutants from coal-burning power plants.'
"The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have similar definitions of this concept.
"Gonzales said that consistent with this definition of the US DOE, the plant's emissions are well below the limits prescribed by the Clean Air Act (150 mg/NCM vs. the SOx limit of 700 mg/NCM; 150 mg/NCM vs. the NOx limit of 1000 mg/NCM; 200 mg/NCM vs. the CO limit of 500 mg/NCM limit; and 50 mg/NCM vs. the Particulate Matter limit of 150 mg/NCM limit).
"We are going to use state of the art coal-fired power generating technology in this project that is already proven in America, Europe, and Japan.
"Gonzales also belied claims that the plant will produce mercury and lead as the coal that the plant will use does not contain significant levels of these substances.
"CHC has also taken the initiative to fund and organize the planting of forest and fruit trees in Maasim, Sarangani to serve as the plant's own carbon sink. The area to be planted will correspond to the total foliage required to absorb the plant's carbon emissions, thereby ensuring a virtually carbon neutral operation of the power plant.
"Power plants in some advanced European countries are buying carbon credits from Indonesian and Malaysian forests to compensate for the carbon dioxide that they emit; we believe that rather than paying for the reforestation of some other foreign country's hills and mountains, we'd like to do it here in Maasim.
"Thousands of workers will be employed to establish, maintain, and expand this carbon sink over the life of the project.
"Unlike carbon capture and sequestration technology which is yet to be established and proven and, worse, truly expensive and uneconomic, the ability of trees and plants to absorb carbon dioxide is an immutable fact of nature.
"CHC's approach to carbon dioxide emission reduction, which is the first of its kind in the Philippines will make use of idle land, making it productive, providing livelihood to the poor farmers in Maasim, and improving quality of life in general.
"When completed, the plant will supply 200MW of electricity to Sarangani, General Santos City, and South Cotabato at a rate that is lower than the local utility's present procurement cost, a welcome development in this day and age of high fuel costs and commodity prices.
"The local fishing industry, already hit by lower catches and increased production costs, stands to benefit substantially from this cost reduction. Gonzales said that given the right mindset, a genuine concern for the environment, and the right technology, it is possible to generate power economically and in harmony with the environment. (Conal Holdings Corporation)