Church official says protests vs coal-fired power plant to continue

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 June)—After achieving initial victory in the fight against open-pit mining with the approval Monday of South Cotabato’s Provincial Environment Code, the Diocese of Marbel is now training its eyes on the plan of an Alcantara-controlled firm to build a $450-million coal-fired power plant project in neighboring Sarangani province.

“We will continue with our information and education campaign in a bid to stop the firm from pursuing the project,” Fr. Romeo Q. Catedral, the diocesan social action director, said.

The priest, also a vocal critic against mining, said the plant poses risk to the environment and human health.

The coal-fired power plant planned by Conal Holdings Corp., is 60% owned by Alsons Consolidated Resources of the Alcantara family.

It would be located in Maasim town, near a world-class diving spot in Barangay Kamanga.

Joseph C. Nocos, Conal Holdings vice president, earlier gave assurances that the project will comply with national and international environment guidelines.

“We can’t let our massive investments go down the drain by being irresponsible in our operations,” Nocos said.

As part of the mitigating measure, Conal Holdings launched its carbon sink project last year worth $7.5 million with the inauguration of the plant nursery in Maasim.

The firm’s carbon sink will cover 7,500 hectares of land that management said will absorb the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Meanwhile, a staunch supporter of coal-fired power project was named as overseer of a local economic triangle in Sarangani province where the plant will rise.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene A. Dominguez designated outgoing Maasim Mayor Anecito P. Lopez Jr. as deputy to the governor for the Maitum-Kiamba-Maasim (MAKIMA) economic sub-grouping effective July 1.

The rest of Conal Holdings’ equity is held by the Electricity Generating Public Company (EGCO), one of Thailand’s biggest power producers.

Dominguez, an Alcantara scion, issued Executive Order No. 001, Series of 2010, naming Mr. Lopez his deputy for MAKIMA affairs “in the exigency of the service; and in order to strengthen and enhance the monitoring, liaison, coordination, assistance and socio-political work of the undersigned in the pursuit of good governance.”

“[Mr.] Lopez, who ends his three terms as mayor today [Wednesday], shall be responsible and report directly to the undersigned regarding his duties and/or work assignments and tasks,” Dominguez told reporters.

“All officials and employees of the provincial government are hereby enjoined to extend their fullest cooperation and support to Mr. Lopez,” the executive order said.

Lopez, who served as Maasim mayor for nine years, has said that the coal-fired power plant would make Maasim the industrial hub of the province.

He said that Conal Holdings has hurdled legal requirements to start the construction of the power plant after acquiring an Environmental Compliance Certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (MindaNews)