Davao mayor junks land reclassification request of Aboitiz Power

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 December) — Saying the project is prejudicial to the general welfare, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio vetoed the land reclassification request of Aboitiz Power Corp. for the establishment of its 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Barangay Binugao, Toril District,.

Duterte-Carpio said in her veto message on Monday that she was “disturbed with the environmental and health implications resulting from the operation of such project.”

Her veto message was received by the Sangguniang Panlungsod on Tuesday.

“The subject measure is hereby vetoed pursuant to Sec. 55 (a) of Republic Act No. 7160 on the ground that the same is prejudicial to public welfare,” she said in her three page message, citing the possible risks of the project to the environment and public health.

Sec. 55 (a) of Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code provides that the mayor may veto an ordinance if it is deemed to be prejudicial to the general welfare.

The vetoed ordinance reclassified parcels of land in Barangay Binugao from protected medium industrial zone to protected heavy industrial zone.

“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,” Duterte-Carpio said.

The Network Opposed to Coal-Davao had also appealed to the mayor in a letter dated Nov. 25 to reverse the reclassification ordinance.

Dr. Jean Lindo, convenor of the group, said the veto is needed in favor of the “people’s right to health, clean air and water and water and environmental sustainability.”

The group commended the mayor’s decision, and vowed to continue rallying if the city council overrode the veto.

“We consider this people’s victory. But we have to guard this uncomfortable victory. There might be ways to overturn this,” Lindo said yesterday in a text message.

Override or not?

Councilor Tomas J. Monteverde IV, city council majority floor leader, said they needed to read the mayor’s veto message first in the plenary during the regular session either on December 12 or 13.

He will also “ask the body on how to treat the matter (on whether) to accept or override it.”

Sec. 54 (a) of the Local Government Code provides that a local council can override a veto by the mayor by a two-thirds vote of all its members.

The city council unanimously approved the ordinance on Nov. 15.

The measure authored by Councilor Rachel P. Zozobrado, chair of the sub-committee on housing and subdivision development on high-end projects, cited that the project is subject to strict compliance to certain conditions.

One of the conditions imposed by the committee is the creation of a multipartite monitoring team “in order to verify the authenticity of the environmental impact assessment.” It shall be headed by the city government with representatives of a non-government organization and government agencies.

The committee also required the power firm should seek first a permit from the multipartite monitoring team if it plans to drill for fresh water. The company plans to extract at least 1,500 cubic meters of fresh water.

No comment yet

Asked by MindaNews, Manuel M. Orig, Aboitiz Power first vice president for Mindanao affairs, said in a text message that the company was still studying whether or not to file a motion for reconsideration before the mayor.

“We will (also) make our comment in due time,” he said.

The company, one of the biggest power producers in the country, decided to build the power plant supposedly to address the projected shortage of about 400 megawatts in Mindanao within the next three years.

Orig said earlier that the decision to build the plant is “a gamble” on their part as there is no existing contract yet as to who will buy the power it will produce. The company planned to invest P25 billion for the establishment of the coal plant in between the city and Barangay
Inawayan, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

Aboitiz had already obtained the approval of the local government of Sta. Cruz, where it planned to move the entire project if it failed to get the nod of the city government.

The firm’s land reclassification request is needed before the company could finally start construction work in Barangay Binugao. (MindaNews)