Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Atienza vows to review coal plant proposal

By:Ira Karen Apanay - Manila Times

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday assured the residents of Iloilo City that it would study all the matters and issues related to the proposed coal-fired power plant before issuing an environmental clearance certificate.

I assure everyone that we are always on the side of sustainable development and lower cost of power and electricity for Iloilo, DENR Secretary Lito Atienza said.

Atienza also stressed that before the DENR would issue an environmental clearance certificate, it would make sure that the project would conform to the highest standards of sound environmental performance, economic advantage to the country and its acceptability to stakeholders.

We are weighing all options very carefully and scrutinizing any and all related issues to the setting up of a coal plant, Atienza said.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace have expressed objections to the setting up of the coal-fired plant and have been asking the government to be serious about exploiting the renewable energy sources that are abundant in the country like sun, wind and geothermal energy.

International climate experts said coal was a major contributor to destructive global warming because aside from it being the dirtiest, it also happened to be the most carbon intensive of all fossil fuels.

Greenpeace said coal emits 29 percent more carbon per unit of energy than oil and 80 percent more than gas. It is also one of the leading contributors to climate change, it added.

Burning coal also releases massive amounts of substances such as mercury and arsenic that are toxic to human health and create acutely detrimental effects on developing economies and hosting communities.

Aside from the 165 MW plant in Iloilo City, the government currently has at least eight coal-fired plants lined up for construction or expansion in the country: the 300 MW expansion in Pagbilao, Quezon Province; the 200 MW each in Naga and in Cebu; the 300 MW expansion in Masinloc, Zambales; the 100 MW in Concepcion, Iloilo; the 300 MW in Olongapo, Zambales; and the 150 MW in Sultan Kudarat.

While we are satisfying all the environmental questions, I want to emphasize that as far as protecting the environment is concerned, we are one with all the advocates of environmental protection, even as we listen to the arguments of those who are against this project, Atienza said.

Atienza explained that the matter of granting or turning down the environmental compliance certificate for the project remains pending because of careful studies being undertaken.

Responding to charges of anti- coal-fire plants, Atienza said that the plant to be set up in Iloilo is reportedly similar to that of a plant operating in Taipei.

I went to Taipei along with independent experts to assess the technology. I would like to tell you that what I saw was impressive, Atienza said.

Atienza explained that the coal-fired power plant in Taipei was located inside an industrial zone producing microchips. This required a pollution-free environment since the production of microchips was very sensitive.

In other words, there is such a thing as a pollution-free coal-fired power plant. If that is the technology that will be used in Iloilo, definitely I am impressed. But if the technology does not pass our judgment, we should not approve it, Atienza said.

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