Planned coal plant in Subic opposed

Planned coal plant in Subic opposed

A group of businessmen in the Subic Bay Freeport has opposed the construction of a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant on the freeport’s Redondo Peninsula, saying the cheaper electricity was not worth the environmental trade offs.

In a position paper submitted to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority on Friday, the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC) said the plant’s operation would cause irreversible damage to an area it described as having “extremely high biodiversity values and high species endemism.”

This, the group said, would lead to the reduced commercial potential of the Freeport.

The Subic Bay Resorts Association in Subic, Zambales, also joined the protest to protect the town’s beach, the area’s prime attraction.

John Corcoran, SBFCC president, told SBMA officials in the petition’s cover letter that the coal plant would be the “final step in the degradation of Subic Bay, reducing the potential to attract tourists.”

“It will pollute the air, the land and the water, removing the key ingredients in Subic Bay’s prime assets–clean air, clean water and the proximity to nature,” Corcoran said.

SBMA Chair Feliciano Salonga said the P100-million project was a joint venture of the SBMA and the Taiwanese-led Co-Generation. It would initially provide power to the Korean shipbuilder Hanjin and eventually to the entire freeport, he said.

“It would make business more competitive. The high cost of power is one of the problems of industrial locators,” said Salonga in a telephone interview.

Subic Enerzone, the current electricity provider, charges P5 per kilowatt-hour, he said.

Salonga, however, calmed fears of environmental degradation, saying the project would “comply with all rules.”

Corcoran said the “only official beneficiaries would be Hanjin and a handful of Taiwanese investors in the Subic Industrial Park.”

As the proponent assured in its memorandum of understanding that “all emissions will meet the regulations,” the SBFCC reminded SBMA that a pollution study in 1997 showed that Subic Bay, a protected area, has fresh and clean water.

The chamber also expressed skepticism on the capability of local authorities to regulate the project.

The SBFCC recommended the use of gas-fired combined cycle technology that it said was more efficient.

Opposition to coal power plants has been tested in Pangasinan where villagers succeeded in blocking a plan to build a coal plant in one of the village there.

The monitoring of environmental pollution in Subic has been tight following an oil slick that smudged coastlines of Olongapo City recently.

In a recent slick, plastic bags containing oil debris apparently from the Petron oil spill in Guimaras were found floating in the city’s coastline.

The garbage bags, containing what may be used bunker oil, appeared to have been deliberately dumped and were ruptured by waves, according to Olongapo officials.

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