Bayan: repeat of reef accident likely if Maasim coal plant project proceeds

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 May)—A local militant group here has warned that the maritime accident involving a foreign cargo ship in Kiamba, Sarangani may be repeated once the Alcantara-led coal-fired power plant project pushes through.

Ryan Lariba, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City chapter, noted the accident involving MV Double Prosperity should serve as “an eye opener” in the efforts to preserve Sarangani Bay.

The Panama-registered vessel was carrying around 66,000 tons of coal from Australia to India when it rammed into Bakud Reef on May 8.

Lariba feared the incident would be repeated if Conal Holdings Corp., now named the Sarangani Energy Corp., would be allowed to operate its 200-megawatt coal power plant in Maasim town.

Company officials earlier said the coal to be used for the $450-million power plant would be imported from Kalimantan, Indonesia.

“There is no assurance that incidents like what happened to MV Double Prosperity will not happen in the future since the coal to be used by Conal will be coming from Kalimantan, Indonesia and will pass through Sarangani Bay,” Lariba said.

Local company officials could not be reached for comment on Bayan-Socksargen’s concern on Friday.

Conal Holdings, after several misses since it announced the project in 2007, will reportedly start the construction of the power plant in the second half of the year.

It is 60% owned by the publicly listed Alsons Consolidated Resources, Inc. and the rest held by the Electricity Generating Public Co. Ltd., Thailand’s largest power producer.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has already granted the coal-fired power project an environmental compliance certificate.

Lariba urged the provincial government of Sarangani not to allow the coal power project to push through due to the apparent danger it poses to the Sarangani Bay environment.

But Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez, an Alcantara scion, has endorsed the project in various occasions, saying this would draw industrial investments to the province and neighboring areas.

Meanwhile, the stranded MV Double prosperity is expected to be pulled out from Bakud Reef in two weeks time.

The ship, owned by Tanagra Shipping, S.A, has been stuck at the reef, which is some seven kilometers from the shore, for about three weeks now.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje has placed the initial damage cost at P42 million but said the company should be made to pay more for the lost marine services to the communities as a result of the accident.

He said it would take 20 years before the damaged reef could be restored to its original state.

Dominguez said they have yet to determine the final amount that would be demanded from the owner of the stranded vessel. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)