26 October 2011

SBMA still studying 600MW venture

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Roberto Garcia has clarified that the planned expansion of the 300-megawatt coal power plant into a 600-megawatt coal plant inside Subic Bay Freeport has not been granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and that the agency is yet to give the green light for it.

He said that it is the original project to construct a 300-MW coal power plant in Redondo Peninsula that has been granted an ECC by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2008.

Garcia told The Manila Times that the new SBMA board appointed this year by President Benigno Aquino 3rd has questioned the planned expansion of the Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc (RPE) project.

Hindi maliwanag ‘yung cheaper energy . . . kailangan linawin nila sa amin kung paano mangyayari ‘yang cheap electricity na sinasabi nila because under the EPIRA law any producer has to connect to the national grid and once na pumasok sa grid may transmission cost na and then babalik din sa iyo ‘yun, so where is the lower electricity cost na sinasabi nila?” Garcia asked.

Moreover, environmental and social concern from stakeholders inside and outside the Freeport is growing. And Garcia has also questioned the low lease rate cost, although he did not mention the exact amount.

Original MOU

Garcia explained that the original MOU for the 300MW coal plant was approved because of two things: It is supposed to be a joint venture between SBMA and Taiwan Cogeneration company and it will result in lower electricity rates.

“That was the original MOU in 2008, but now the joint venture agreement has disappeared,” he said.

The new SBMA board of directors has entered into a new negotiation with RPE, specifically to question or get answers to the questions raised by Garcia.

SBMA has hired an environmental expert to study the environmental and social effects of the coal plants.

“We are now hiring consultants to evaluate and verify the statement of [RPE],” Gacia said.

“We have already sent RPE a letter detailing our agency’s concerns and we are expecting a reply by the end of the month, and after that we will start to review it with the help of our consultants and decide if we will approve it or not,” Garcia added.

Social acceptability

The SBMA, according to Garcia, has acknowledged the objections made by stakeholders of the Freeport, and that they are going through the process specifically to address this objection.

He said that SBMA will be conducting its own parallel consultation with its stakeholders as soon as RPE submits its reply. If the reply is acceptable, it is only then that SBMA will start the social acceptability consultation with its stakeholders.

He clarified that the SBMA will only approve the expansion if the plant will produce cheaper energy for the stakeholders, improve the commercial rates and address environmental concerns, and if it is acceptable to everybody in the Freeport.

Tourism industry in Subic

Tourist operators in Subic have expressed objections to the operation of the power plant. They said that the project will affect tourism in Subic, which is known for its lush forest, pristine beaches and beautiful coastal landscape.

But Garcia said that it is “too early to say” that tourism will be affected. (Anthony Bayarong, Manila Times)