By Fr. Shay Cullen
(His columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line)
Wherever there is a coal-fired power plant, people get sick and die and the environment is damaged beyond repair. Coal is the dirtiest and most toxic form of power generation.
The people of Zambales, Bataan and Olongapo City vehemently oppose the proposed coal plant to be built on scenic Subic Bay and are asking what dirty coal deals have been made between the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and “The Power Company”, made up of Aboitiz Power Corporation, RP Energy, and the Taiwan Cogeneration Corporation (TCC) and the higher Philippine government officials who have allowed this to go forward?
The toxic fumes of the electricity-generating coal plant will cause many diseases especially among the children and the elderly. Despite the campaign of President Aquino for a transparent, clean nation, environment and good government, a dirty deal from the past administration is still going ahead in the SBMA and will bring shame and hurt to the President.
The three main provisions of the original Memorandum of Understanding set up under the corrupt Arroyo Administration have not been honored or implemented by the proponents of the coal plant. The agreement started out as a joint-partnership agreement between the SBMA, the Aboitiz Power Corporation, RP Energy, and the Taiwan Cogeneration Corporation (TCC), call them “The Power Company”. The government was to have a role as partner to monitor compliance with safety and health standards, but that has been eliminated.
The government is just a lessor of the public land for a measly give-away pittance, no more than US$3.50 a sq meter to be paid over 50 years. This is grossly detrimental to the public interest, it is worth vastly more than that and it smells of a corrupt sweetheart deal. The present SBMA board must rescind it.
The people will get nothing from the profits or the lease but will, in effect, pay for the plant which will damage them and their environment. The rich families will get richer and the poor will get very sick.
Another provision of the Memorandum of Understanding agreement was that “The Company” would assist local communities off-set any damage to the environment and reduce the health risk with “state of the art” technology. But no written commitment as to what would have been signed. Such health problems has been clearly forecast and acknowledged. A third provision agreed upon was that low-cost electricity would be supplied to the local communities and the SBMA. None of these will happen. The plant will sell all its power to the national grid.
As soon as the “The Company” got the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by higher authorities under strange and questionable circumstances, “The Company” failed to sign any binding contract with the SBMA. They failed to show any evidence of meeting the strict ECC standards. Inexplicably, they mysteriously got the final permit first. The SBMA officials issued a Permit to Operate (PTO) before the other necessary permits were issued. The requirements for a PTO apparently were waivered. Besides, all safety and design requirements needed to qualify for a Permit to Operate were allegedly not complied with.
Also the original project application stated that it would be a 300 Megawatt coal plant and now they are trying to get an extension of the ECC to double the project to 600 Megawatt plant. The ECC is only good for a 300 MW, it can’t cover a 600 MW. “The Company” must start again and follow the requirements to qualify for an ECC for a 600 MW. The ECC for a 300MW plant is null and void since they will build a 600 MW plant, a project with double the hazards to health and the environment.
The proponents of the coal plants are trying to push for “Clean coal”, “Green coal, Safe coal”, There is no such thing as clean coal and don’t believe the profit-hungry companies that tell you there is. All over the world, they are into coal plants for the money, big profits and all to be paid for by the tax payers.
Perhaps the government officials behind this coal plant are the saintly exceptions and will never take a single dollar in exchange for a signature. If they are indeed true and honest people of integrity with the best interests of the Filipino people at heart, they will join the protesting people and oppose the project and allow the alternative renewable energy projects to go ahead instead. END