DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 December) — Twenty-one councilors voted on Monday to override Mayor Sara Duterte’s veto of an ordinance reclassifying a parcel of land in Barangay Binugao, Toril District from protected medium industrial zone to protected heavy industrial zone, to allow Aboitiz Power Corp. to construct a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant.
While the session was going on, some 200 protesters had already gathered in front of the City Council building to protest against the establishment of the coal-fired power plant.
Twenty-two councilors attended the session but Councilor Paolo Duterte, an ex-officio member being the chair of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC), abstained from the voting.
After Majority Floor Leader Tomas Monteverde III read the veto order of the mayor before the council, presiding officer Councilor Karlo Bello granted his request for a three-minute recess during which the lawmakers agreed who would speak first.
After the break, Duterte told the council he would not participate in the voting.
Addressing his colleagues, Councilor Melchor Quitain acknowledged that there are alternative sources of energy which are less harmful such as solar, wind and hydro power.
He, however, added: “To say there are alternative sources of energy is not the same as saying that they are available. And to say that they are available is not the same as saying they are available now. And to say that they are available now is not the same as saying that they are doable and workable here in Davao City.”
In her previous media interviews, the mayor has been urging “to explore other alternative sources of energy instead of the coal.”
Opposition groups echoed the mayor’s suggestion to explore alternative sources of energy.
While Quitain was speaking, five protesters silently walked inside the session hall with placards showing their opposition to the coal-fired power plant project.
The council’s sergeant-at-arms tried to put the placards down but Bello signaled at him to allow the protesters to go on with their silent protest.
After Quitain’s speech, Bello called for a vote on whether or not to override the veto of the mayor. Except for Duterte’s abstention, the motion to overrule the veto got a unanimous vote.
They were: Nilo Abellera, Victorio Advincula Jr., Bernard Al-ag, Al Ryan Alejandre, Dante Apostol, Conrado Baluran, Joanne Bonguyan, Louie John Bonguyan, Pilar Braga, Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, April Marie Dayap, Jimmy Dureza, Melchor Quitain, Edgar Ibuyan, Emmanuel Galicia Sr., Rene Elias Lopez, Tomas Monteverde III, Jashera Gonzales, Myrna Dalodo-Ortiz, Jose Louie Villafuerte, and Rachel Zozobrado.
Councilor Jimmy Dureza then asked the presiding the officer if they could move to adopt the explanation of Quitain so that they would not have to explain their affirmative vote one by one.
The council moved to adopt Quitain’s explanation.
After the voting, the protesters marched out of the session hall while shouting “mga traidor sa katawhan” (traitors of the people).
Franchie Buhayan, secretary general of Bayan Southern Mindanao Region, led the protesters in a noise barrage in front of the City Council building.
Buhayan accused the councilors as traitors and of allegedly being more loyal to the Aboitiz Power Corporation than to their constituents.
“They refused to listen to the people, particularly those living in the project site,” she screamed.
Tom Villarin, convenor of Dabawenyo Ayaw sa Coal (DAC) claimed that scientific studies over decades have proven the negative impact of coal-fired power plants.
“We don’t need dead bodies before we say coal is unsafe,” Villarin said in a statement sent to media.
In her veto message, the mayor said: “As a mayor of our city, I should be at the forefront of effecting the observance of the right of our people to health and balanced ecology, and the correlative duty of the people, which I suppose rests largely upon the government, to refrain from impairing the environment.” (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)