Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Environment group calls for impartial Mindanao energy audit

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2011) – A Filipino environment group called No To Coal which is strongly opposing the planned coal-fired power plant in Davao City in Mindanao has called on local leaders to conduct an impartial and independent energy audit after power firm Aboitiz claimed that there is a looming energy crisis in the region.

Aboitiz Power Corporation is also proposing to put up a coal power station in Davao City.

No To Coal, an acronym for ‘Network Opposed to Coal-Fired Power Plants’ said it has four reasons why the proposal should be flatly rejected. It said there is no scientific and valid data on the Aboitiz Power Corporation's claim of 'looming energy crisis' because no reliable energy audit to evaluate the status of power and the efficiency in energy utilization has been conducted.

The group also challenged the Davao City Council to facilitate the conduct of an impartial, independent, multi-stakeholder, and participatory energy audit and planning. “Why is it that the city council is reluctant to our challenge? Who is afraid of transparency?” asked Francis Morales, Secretary-General of the Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao and convener of No To Coal in Davao City.

“Our group has already told the city councilors that through an energy audit we will know which industry will benefit from the coal plant proposed by Aboitiz. The current Mindanao Business Council chairperson has said that those mining corporations need the plant because they need at least 1,000 mega-watts of power that will start their full-blown operations by 2014."

"Now, Aboitiz Power Corporation is in a haste to build the coal plant so that it can start its operations by 2014. It is very clear to us that the coal plant is not for the people’s need. It is for foreign and destructive mining operations. Hence, not in our name,” he added.

“Do we want to further pollute and destroy our water resources, climate, biodiversity, and people's health just to supply the power needs of large-scale and destructive mining and for corporate elite's greediness?,” Morales asked.

NO TO COAL also criticized Aboitiz for asking an endorsement of approval of the proposed power plant from the Davao City Council despite the fact that the Environmental Impact Assessment has not been completed yet.

The group said Davao City has a Zoning Ordinance, a policy for appropriate land use management and planning and that the site of the proposed power station in the village of Binugao is only for agriculture and small and medium industries.

“The power plant is a heavy industry under Philippine EIA law. Hence, it should not be built in Binugao in the first place since it deviates from the local policy on land use management,” Morales said.

He said his group has challenged Aboitiz to a public debate over the proposal to build a coal-fired power plant and its damaging effects to the environment and human health.

“We are challenging Aboitiz to a public debate and let the people do the informed decision because the City Council has no moral ascendancy to decide on our behalf since the political process, the governance, has been already been tainted,” Morales said.

Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte and her father, Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, are both supportive of the proposed power plant. And so are most of the city councilors who inspected this year a coal power plant operated by Steag State Power Incorporated, where Aboitiz has a stake, in Misamis Oriental province.

The visit to the plant showed the officials the operation of the power station.

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