03 July 2012

DENR conducts public consultation on Subic coal plant project

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) conducted a public consultation on the coal-fired power plant project proposed by Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy) last June 29 at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center.

More than 5,000 participants composed of residents of Olongapo City and Subic, Zambales, as well as representatives from various stakeholder groups in the Subic Bay Freeport area, attended the consultation.

Region III DENR Director Lormelyn Claudio facilitated the consultation while David Evangelista, project development analyst from RP Energy, fielded questions from the public.

Also present were Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr., Vice Governor Ramon Lacbain II and several councilors from Olongapo and Subic town.

Among the issues raised in the forum was the project’s lack of social acceptability from communities in and around the Subic Bay Freeport, where the project is to be located.

Ebdane pointed out that DENR’s failure to conduct public consultation prior to the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the proposed 600-megawatt coal plant had clouded the project, even when it was designed to avert power crisis and help develop the local economy.

He also expressed concern on the lack of information about the safety and viability of the proposed plant, and urged the proponents to conduct further public consultations.

“Kung ano ‘yung totoo, ‘yun ang ipakita n’yo at nang makapag desisyon ang mga mamayan (Tell the truth, so that the people can decide),” Ebdane told RP Energy officials.

Another concern raised by forum participants was the availability of alternative employment opportunities for fisher folk and other residents whose livelihood may be affected by the project.

To this, Evangelista said that about 3,200 jobs will be created during the five years that the plant will be constructed, as well as about 300 positions when the plant starts operation. Residents of Subic town will be given priority for employment, he added.

When asked about the effects of the plant to the environment, Evangelista replied that the plant has a built-in pollution-control technology which will minimize the formation of pollutants produced by burning coal. The amount of emission that will be produced will also meet Philippine environmental standards.

Evangelista also said that a 24-hour Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) will be in place and this will provide 24/7 emission data that will be made available to the public.

He also explained that power sources like wind, water and hydrothermal are very limited and expensive, while coal is cheap and can generate power for sustained periods of time.

When asked about the source of the coal that will be used for the plant, Evangelista said that the fuel supply will be imported from Australia and Indonesia and will be shipped to Subic.

For her part, Claudio said that the public consultation has been successful because of the huge attendance generated and the actual participation of residents and stakeholders in the open forum.

She also noted that RP Energy had already conducted an Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign in the barangays near the affected area and had gathered favorable response from the people in these areas. (ICL/MPD-SBMA)

Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. (right) discusses residents’ concerns on the proposed Subic coal-fired thermal power plant with DENR Region III director Lormelyn Claudio and Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II during a break in the public consultation held at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center.