04 February 2015

SC clears way for long-delayed Subic plant

THE SUPREME COURT finally cleared the way for a Meralco-led consortium to build its long-delayed 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Subic, Zambales.

In en banc session on Tuesday, justices voted 13-0 to uphold the validity of the coal power project of Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc. (RP Energy) in Barangay Cawag.

The ruling upheld the validity of the environmental compliance certificates issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on December 2008 and July 2010. It also upheld the validity of the June 2010 Lease and Development Agreement with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Associate Justices Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe and Mario Victor “Marvic” F. Leonen voted in favor of RP Energy, but with qualifications, Supreme Court Public Information Office (PIO) Chief Theodore O. Te said in a briefing.

The high court also unanimously voted to deny the petition for writ of kalikasan filed by former Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro A. CasiƱo and other individuals, as well as the organizations Advocates for Wildlife and Environment Protection, Wildlife in Need, Subic-Olongapo Cancer Foundation, Inc., and PAMALAKAYA (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organization in the Philippines).

Associate Justices Arturo D. Brion and Francis H. Jardeleza took no part in the voting, with the former being on leave and the latter inhibiting due to his previous involvement as Solicitor-General.

A full copy of the decision has yet to be issued.

The decision reversed the January 2013 ruling by the Court of Appeals invalidating the project’s amended environment compliance certificate (ECC) due to RP Energy’s failure to conduct a new environmental impact assessment.

The appellate court’s earlier decision was also based on the supposed lack of consent from the local government and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to support the Lease and Development Agreement with SBMA.

RP Energy is a joint venture of Meralco PowerGen Corp., Aboitiz Power Corp., and Taiwan Cogeneration International Corp..

The project was originally expected to go online by the this year’s dry season but development was halted because of the writ of kalikasan filed against the project.

The Supreme Court first released a resolution on the writ dated July 31, 2010, against Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus P. Paje, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and RP Energy.

Such writs serve as a judicial remedy to protect against projects inflicting possible environmental damage that affects inhabitants.

The petitioners claimed RP Energy violated its environmental impact statement and environment compliance certificate (ECC).

The petitioners also claimed the ECC was issued without complying with the conditions of affected indigenous people and without prior approval of local government units.

While the project proponents have yet to receive their respective copies of the court’s decision, they welcomed the development saying this would help the energy industry.

“We have yet to read the decision. Assuming it’s all positive, then it’s good for the industry,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, senior vice-president of Manila Electric Co., the parent firm of Meralco PowerGen.

Stephen G. Paradies, senior vice-president of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (AEV), also said AboitizPower has yet to receive a formal copy of the decision.

AEV is the parent company of AboitizPower.

“We intend to pursue this project. It’s very good news,” said Mr. Paradies. (Claire-Ann M. C. Feliciano and Vince Alvic A. F. Nonato, BusinessWorld)