Church, environmentalists ask DENR to revoke ECC of Quezon province coal plant

Church, environmentalists ask DENR to revoke ECC of Quezon province coal plant

LUCENA CITY—A staunch leader of opposition against coal-fired power plants vowed to continue to challenge the legality of the proposed 1,200 MW coal-fired power plant in Atimonan town in Quezon province.

“We’re more on legal battle now,” Fr. Warren Puno, head of the Ministry of Ecology of the Diocese of Lucena, said in an online interview on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Puno criticized the support of the local government unit (LGU) to the ongoing construction of the coal-fired power plant at the coastal village of Villa Ibaba facing Lamon Bay.

“All the LGU tells us is that aside from its support for the project, it cannot do anything anymore,” said Puno.

“But if they would do nothing, we will be the one to do something,” the priest added.

On Tuesday, Puno joined a rally at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) main office in Quezon City to call for the cancellation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) granted to Atimonan One Energy (A1E), following the discovery of alleged breaches of environmental and community education requisites.

A1E, developer of the plant is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Meralco PowerGen Corp. (MGen), the power generation arm of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s largest power distributor.

An ECC is issued by the DENR-EMB after a positive review of the project’s application.

It indicated that a proposed undertaking will not have a significant negative impact on the environment. The project proponent must then fulfill measures and conditions indicated in the ECC before and during the operation of the project and even after the project completion.

In a statement, the protesters composed of environmentalist groups, religious and other sectoral representatives, claimed that the ECC issued to A1E in 2015 “clearly stated specific requirements”.

Citing certified true copies of permits issued by the DENR-Forest Management Bureau (FMB) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA),  lawyer Avril De Torres, legal counsel of the Power for People Coalition (P4P), said tree-cutting and earth-balling permits required A1E to put up signs in conspicuous places to inform the public that land clearing is authorized by the DENR.

The protesters said several residents of Atimonan had sworn they did not see any such signs.

“Since there are no placards and the last permit from PCA has already expired, residents are concerned that land clearing is being done illegally,” said De Torres, who is also the Research, Policy, and Law Program head of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED).

The protesters claimed that from 2016-2017, A1E was allowed to cut nearly 3,500 coconut trees, in addition to the thousands more trees of other species they were permitted to remove.

The power plant critics also hit the A1E’s alleged lack of effort to ensure public participation in addressing the project’s possible environmental and social impacts.

“Perhaps A1E deliberately did not exert efforts to conduct a comprehensive IEC (Information, Education and Communication), because they knew that the people will not stand back as they dirty our homes,” Puno said.

The Inquirer tried to contact Litz Manuel-Santana, vice president and head of MGen External Affair, but the efforts proved futile.

However, one of her staffers who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter retorted: “This is old story. We have complied with all the pertinent ECC conditions for A1E”.

Quezon Gov. Danilo Suarez backs the construction of the Atimonan power plant to ensure ample power supply in Quezon and nearby provinces and to help the country address its very thin power reserve against increasing consumption.

Suarez argued that there will be rotating brownouts in the absence of sufficient power plants operating to produce the required power requirements.

“As long as the power plants in the province will be using ultra-supercritical technology, there will be no problem,” Suarez reiterated in an interview on Tuesday.

The P160-billion Atimonan power plant boasted that it is set to use “ultra-supercritical” technology in its operation.

According to the Brussels-based nonprofit GreenFacts Initiative, an ultra-supercritical power plant operates at temperatures and pressures above the critical boiling point of water, where there is no difference between water gas and liquid water.

GreenFacts—whose avowed mission is to provide non-experts with unbiased, factual content of complex scientific consensus reports on health and the environment—said this would make such power plants more efficient than conventional coal-fired plants.

Edited by TSB