Anti-coal plant group demands for ‘energy audit’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 March) – People wearing green stickers on their breasts that read “No to coal-fired plants” crowded the session hall of the city council here Thursday as it opened its first committee hearing on the proposed 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in barangay Binugao, Toril.

The group, calling itself the No to Coal Davao, filled more than half of the session hall as the 12 invited guests spoke for and against the proposed plant that Aboitiz Power Corporation plans to put up within a 51-hectare area covering the boundaries of Davao City and Davao del Sur.

Manuel Orig, Aboitiz consultant, said the proposed plant will address the 484-megawatt shortfall earlier projected to occur in the region by 2014.

But the No to Coal Davao group said the public needed an honest-to-goodness inventory of existing power capacities in the region instead of merely relying on the power shortfall projection made by business groups like the Mindanao Business Council, who earlier expressed support for the project.

“We call for an independent ‘energy audit’ to inventory existing energy sources in Mindanao and to find out whether or not there really is an upcoming shortfall,” said Francis Morales, the group’s co-convener and secretary-general of the environment group Panalipdan.

Binugao barangay kagawad Flora Salandron said barangay officials were kept in the dark about the company’s plans to put up the coal-fired power project right in their area. “Why didn’t Aboitiz inform the barangay council?” asked Salandron, who spoke last among the 12 speakers during the hearing. Barangay officials did not receive any notice nor were they able to discuss the pros and cons of the project, since they were not informed about the project in the first place.

“It’s as if they (company officials) are in a rush to put up the plant without consulting the people,” Salandron said. She recalled that when people were already asking about how the proposed coal-fired plant might impact their lives, she had asked the barangay captain to hold a barangay forum about the project.

The barangay captain, however, merely told her that reports about the proposed project “were mere hearsay.”

Salandron lamented that for the first public consultation on the project last Feb. 10, the announcement was made a day before so that only a few people in the community knew about it. She said she was lucky she was among the three barangay kagawads who heard about the consultation.

Amalie Conchelle Hamoy-Obusan, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, pointed out that it doesn’t make any sense for Davao to ban smoking in the city and yet allow a coal-fired power plant, which would emit a much larger volume of killer gas in the atmosphere. She also said that allowing the plant to provide the solution to the impending energy demand will lock up the country’s reliance on coal in the next 30 years and will ease out the possibility of tapping Mindanao’s rich renewable energy potentials.

Councilor Pilar Braga, chair of the city council’s committee on energy, transportation and communication, said they will schedule another committee hearing in April where councilors can already start asking questions about the proposed power plant project. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)