“Congress should probe into how a pollutive coal-fired power plant was approved despite the copious lack of social acceptability and extensive environmental risks.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA — Makabayan bloc lawmakers at the House of Representatives filed a resolution on June 9 calling for a congressional probe on the approval by a Palawan agency for the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Narra town in the province.
Bayan Muna partylist Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, along with Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan filed House Resolution 2164, asking the committees on ecology, natural resources and climate change to conduct a joint investigation on the clearance granted to the DMCI Power corporation to construct a coal plant.
On May 28, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development’s (PCSD) gave a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance to the DMCI, a subsidiary of the David M. Consunji Holdings Inc., to build a 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant, in spite of years of opposition by local groups and environmentalists.
Environmental groups Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE) joined the lawmakers in filing the resolution.
“Congress should probe into how a pollutive coal-fired power plant was approved despite the copious lack of social acceptability and extensive environmental risks. The move is especially questionable given the availability of clean and competitive energy alternatives in the province,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
“We filed HR 2164 because DMCI’s Palawan coal power project presents real threats to the globally recognized and protected status of Palawan’s unparalleled biodiversity,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
“The construction of a pollutive project in Palawan also contradicts the government’s choice of the province as a climate-resilient ‘Ecotown’ demonstration site,” he added.
The resolution cited that Palawan was declared in 1990 as a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO, which also subsequently declared two Palawan sanctuaries as World Heritage sites: the Tubbataha National Reef Park and the Palawan Underground River.
On top of the environmental risks, the solons noted Kalikasan PNE’s list of DMCI’s track record of projects that “have caused economic and social dislocation, environmental destruction and pollution, and human rights violations.”
The solons also cited that contrary to claims of power shortage, the Department of Energy said the province has a peak energy demand of 35 megawatt (MW), while Palawan energy providers have a capacity of 53.7 MW, which means they even have a power reserve of 16.7 MW.
They added that the addition of a 15-MW plant would also be “incompatible” with the existing infrastructure, as the 13.8 kilovolt-transmission tie-line can only carry up to 12 MW of power.
Instead of coal, the resolution said there are sustainable energy options, citing the Palawan Island Energy Master Plan, which said that the province has a total renewable energy potential of 164 MW from hydroelectric, solar and wind power.
The resolution also cited the petition against the coal plant by climate action group 350.org, which had already gathered some 6,000 signatures, including by personalities such as climate change commissioner Naderev Sano, iconic folk singer Lolita Carbon, academicians and church leaders.
“Given Palawan’s surplus power supply and existing clean energy options, we challenge our colleagues in Congress to investigate how the PCSD still utterly failed in its mandate to protect the environment in its approval of an expensive and pollutive coal-fired power plant,” said Zarate.