Conal plans $250-M coal-fired power plant in Zamboanga City

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 August) — Another coal-fired power plant is being eyed to be put up by Conal Holdings Corp., this time in Zamboanga City, a senior company official on Monday said.

“Technical feasibility studies will commence next week in two sites in Zamboanga for a 100-megawatt [coal-fired power] plant,” Joseph C. Nocos, vice president of the Alcantara-led firm said.

Nocos did not cite the specific location of the $250-million project but only said that the studies will be done in the city’s east and west coasts.

He added their $450-million coal-fueled power plant project in nearby Maasim, Sarangani will push through as planned.

The executive said the planned Zamboanga venture is part of the company’s expansion strategy in the power generation industry.

Conal Holdings, which is 60-percent owned by Alsons Corp and the rest by the Electricity Generating Public Co., Thailand’s largest power producer, had announced during the 16th Mindanao Business Conference in September 2007 its interest to venture into the coal plant power generation business in the southern Philippines.

To date, however, Conal Holdings has yet to start construction of its first 200-MW coal power plant in Maasim, which was initially set to commence in 2008.

The company has already obtained an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for its Maasim project.

Nocos declined to give reasons why the Maasim project in the village of Kamanga is delayed.

The coal plant development site lies near a world-class diving spot. The project is opposed by the local Catholic Church and environmental groups on concerns over human health and the environment.

Last Saturday, seven-time world boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao went scuba diving at the famous dive spot along with several congressmen to promote the tourism spots of the province.

Pacquiao had expressed opposition to the coal plant project of Conal Holdings in September last year as he bared plans to run as congressman of the province. He won via landslide in the May 10 polls.

“I swear that I will protect our seas and will not allow anyone to pollute the air that we breathe,” Pacquiao wrote in his column “Kumbinasyon” in a national tabloid.

Pacquiao, chairperson of the Mindanao-wide Task Force Save Earth, pointed out that coal-fired power plants across the globe, including the United States, are being shut down due to ill-effects.

Coal plants are the major cause of acid rain, he argued.

He stressed the project will be dangerous to the majority while only a few influential families could benefit from it, apparently referring to the Alcantaras.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene A. Dominguez, an Alcantara scion, has been backing the coal plant, saying it will boost the economic potentials of the province.

Nocos earlier said the firm welcomes opposition to the project but is open to dialogues to thresh out concerns.

“But we assure you the project will be put in place with sufficient measures to protect the environment compliant with domestic and international standards,” he said. (MindaNews)