14 December 2011

SBMA to institutionalize consultations on environment-sensitive projects

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will institutionalize public consultations for environmentally sensitive projects to give stakeholders a voice in determining development directions and ensure transparency in the Subic Bay Freeport.

SBMA officials made this announcement last week, as they concluded the three-day Social Acceptability Process (SAP) public forum on the prospects of putting up a coal-fired thermal power plant here.

Angel Bagaloyos, chief of the policy and monitoring division of the SBMA Ecology Center, said the public consultations initiated by the SBMA board of directors will be institutionalized for environmentally sensitive projects, in particular.

“This is just a start. In the future, all projects that will be identified by the board as environmentally sensitive will have to go through this process of consulting with the different stakeholders. So this process will be institutionalized,” Bagaloyos clarified.

SBMA director Norberto Sosa said in the same forum that the consultation for the proposed coal power plant was just the first implementation of the SAP, a policy that the new SBMA board had recently approved.

“It happens that this coal-fired power plant project has been declared as one of these environmentally sensitive projects. So it has to undergo SAP so that we can hear out the stakeholders, employees, and the local government units regarding this,” Sosa said.

He added that a project would have to be declared as environmentally sensitive before the SAP could be conducted.

“If there is any project regarded as environmentally sensitive, then it must be declared that it is so, and if it is declared so, then this process will be carried out, similar to what we have been conducting during the last three days,” he stressed.

Sosa said that the SBMA board decided to conduct public consultations to reach out to various stakeholders in the Subic Bay Freeport, since they are the ones being directly affected. “We have to reach out, to listen, so we can have some basis for a decision,” he added.

Sosa also noted that the SAP will be a way to ensure transparency in the projects being developed in the Freeport. “It’s difficult for the SBMA, or for the business locators and project proponents to be perceived as hiding something,” he said.

In the said forum, Sosa, along with director Philip Camara, met with different stakeholders around the Freeport to discuss the 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant that is proposed to be built by the Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc., a business consortium formed by Meralco, Aboitiz Power Corp., and Taiwan Cogen Corp.

The consultation was attended by representatives from concerned local government units, business locators, socio-civic groups, and leaders of Aeta communities in the free port zone.

Also present during the forum were resource speakers Andre Jon Uchiaoco, a marine biologist; Dr. Visitacion Antonio, a noted toxicologist; and Dr. Rex Cruz, chancellor of the University of the Philippines in Los BaƱos, who discussed potential risks to health, marine life and the environment, in general, that may result from the coal plant. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

SBMA Directors Norberto Sosa and Philip Camara (center) answer queries from participants of the Social Acceptability Process (SAP) public forum on the proposed coal-fired thermal power plant at the Redondo Peninsula in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.