Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Coal-fired power plant a grave threat

The forests of Southeast Asia are under intense deforestation and recently we heard the dire warnings that the world is presently losing 13 million hectares of forest every year. That means less oxygen and more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

Huge concentrations of CO2 and gasses will be released into the pristine air over Subic Bay if and when construction of a coal-fired power plant on scenic Subic Bay is completed. This has to be opposed to protect the people, the forests and the biodiversity of forest life. Soon the tourists, employees and residents of Olongapo City will be choking on the smell of sulfur and fumes (deadly nitrous oxide) belching from tall unsightly smokestacks that will scar the skyline and blur the sunrise and sunset in a toxic haze. Coal-fired plants, the greatest polluters of all, produce sulfur dioxide emissions that destroy the forests and make the sea acidic.

Man and uncaring profit-driven industry are causing the global climate to change drastically with grave consequences for all mankind and all species. We have to oppose such disastrous projects like the “Redondo Peninsula power plant.”

Deforestation and pollution are the main culprits for the extinction of millions of life forms in the past fifty years. All this damage is driven by the greed of the irresponsible rich. The trees and plants that give us oxygen to live are under grave threat from us. We are poisoning ourselves. The greatest sin of this generation is its neglect and destruction of God’s creation.

Last week in Manila, Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, made a plea to the regional political leaders to stop the destruction of the forests. Eighty percent of the planet’s biodiversity is in the tropical rain forests, he said. “What is lost in the Philippines, what is lost in Asia, is lost for the world.” According to one study, the Philippines had 90 percent of its territory covered with tropical forest in 1911. Today it has been reduced to a mere 19 percent and this is diminishing daily with the law being flouted and corrupt politicians and business cronies enriching themselves.

The Redondo Peninsula project is a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant 50 percent owned by the Aboitiz Power Corporation through the Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc. The other 50 percent is a Taiwanese corporation. It may be just one more business enterprise that could be riddled with corruption. The regional office of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources has been bypassed because it vehemently opposed the project and will not issue an environmental compliance certificate. The local government, civil society and the public of the nearby towns and provinces are totally against it. It is being imposed without consent.

Erramon I. Aboitiz, president and chief executive officer of Aboitiz Power Corp., when asked about his family’s relationship with President Gloria Arroyo, said, “We are friends but, you know, I don’t think it’s fair to say that we benefited from it. It’s not correct to say that we benefited.”

We hope that Sen. Richard Gordon, former chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and chairman of the Senate committee on energy, a self-proclaimed conservationist, will oppose it also. We need legislation mandating that only nonpolluting energy, wind turbines and solar powered plants be built as a priority. The side of the Redondo Peninsula facing the South China Sea is ideal for wind turbines. Out of sight and in full face of the ocean winds, 15 would provide all the power needed. The alternative to polluting coal-fired plants has to be found and implemented. By Fr. Shay Cullen - Manila Times

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