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Batangueños vs planned coal-fired power plant

Amen (or the Archdiocesan Ministry on Environment) is not saying amen to the 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant (CFPP) that JG Summit Corp. plans to build in Barangay Pinamucan Ibaba in Batangas City. Amen and the No to Coal-Fired Power Plant Coalition are leading the citizens’ protest. Coal is among the dirtiest sources of energy.

The furor over the proposed CFPP in Palawan has not drowned out the Batangueños’ own protest against a similar threat to their domain. Being a favorite tourist destination and the so-called last frontier of ecological diversity, Palawan has been getting a lot of attention. But Batangas City protest actions are gathering steam of their own. Fr. Dakila “Dak” M. Ramos, coordinator of the coalition and director of Amen, has written to Batangas City Mayor Eddie Dimacuha so that he would stand firm against the project that would dramatically change the city’s coastal landscape. Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has given his support to the protest. The mayor said he has forwarded the letter to the City Council. The archbishop’s letter to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been acknowledged.

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Those against the CFPP have Church pronouncements, scientific findings and legal arguments to back their vehement stand. The coalition quotes from the Catechism for Filipino Catholics: “The ecology crisis today highlights further our moral obligation flowing from our God-given stewardship over the earth… The tremendous advances in modern science and technology have heightened [our] moral responsibility since now, for the first time in history, we have the physical capacity to improve or completely destroy our earthly home.”

Batangas City was a recipient of the Gold Award from the International Awards for Liveable Communities in 2011. Its E-Code promotes development and utilization of renewable and cleaner source of energy in order to reduce dependency on fossil fuel. So the proposed 600-MW CFPP runs counter to the E-Code.

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Dr. Evelina C. Morales, expert in ecological toxicology and environmental technology and management, has come out with a position paper that questions the CFPP. Environmental lawyer Ma. Paz Luna has a similar position paper.

The proposed power plant will use circulating fluidized bed combustion technology. Wrote Morales: “The rationale for this project to provide a new source of energy for the current existing processes in the petrochemical complex and the planned expansion and production of aromatics and butadiene is not enough to approve this project.” She said that using raw water from the sea will suck in tremendous loads of microorganisms, larval stages of bigger microorganisms, and adults of marine plants and animals.

She cited wastewater issues (oily, chemical and sewage) vis-à-vis the capacity of the treatment facility. Very likely, wastewater will be discharged into the Pinamucan river. The scenario she painted is horrifying. Cited, too, are solid waste issues (bottom ash, fly ash and spent limestone) that, she said, are not specified in the proposal. And what about air pollutant emissions not mentioned (mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper and zinc)?

Morales’ paper, though using technical language, is not difficult to understand and presents a worrisome landscape. She said a most important part that the proposal has missed out on is environmental risk assessment.

Amen has come up with a detailed eight-point statement that scientifically lays out why the CFPP should be scrapped. Interested parties may contact the coalition at St. Mary Euphrasia Parish in Kumintang, Batangas City (tel. 0915-8613434).

What is Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos’ stand on the issue? Good question.

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Throwback Thursday: “Post mortem: Calaca” was the title of the 1992 Sunday Inquirer Magazine feature story I wrote after I visited Calaca in Batangas and interviewed people in a sooty barangay near a coal-fired power plant. Will Pinamucan Ibaba suffer the same fate that the people of Calaca did? Of the ghost of a barangay that I saw then, I wrote:

“San Rafael is dead. The barangay that bears the name of Calaca’s patron saint is no more. It has been erased from the map. In its place has risen the 300-megawatt Batangas Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant, also known as Calaca I. Built by the National Power Corporation in 1981 at the cost of $250 million and operating since 1984, Calaca I is a showcase of controversy, a study in conflict… a nightmare-come-true…

“For all the things it has generated—acrimony and electricity among them—Calaca I should, from this day onward, be included among the cases for scrutiny by development planners, sociologists, environmentalists, health workers, economists, technologists, policymakers, government officials, foreign lenders and, most of all, by ordinary citizens whose lives are in danger of being made into a burnt offering on the so-called altar of development.

“If only for the lessons learned on how to pollute a town and send its residents into breathless paroxysms of helplessness against a government agency, Calaca I may have been worth it. Barangay San Rafael has been erased but Calaca, host town of Calaca I and soon of Calaca II, is still around. Sooted but unbowed. Visited by sulfur dioxide (acid rain in doomsday parlance) but somehow surviving. Somewhat weary now but still waving a battered, sooted flag of protest.”

I quoted Monsignor Marciano Dailo’s sarcastic remark then: “Ang sales talk ay ganire… Calaca will develop and become urbanized and progressive.”

The Calaca plant is now run by construction giant DMCI. I asked Father Dak what “ganire” is like 23 years later. His reply: “Adverse effects on the environment and the people. So many are getting sick.”

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Send feedback to cerespd@gmail.com or www.ceresdoyo.com.

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TAGS: Batangas, Calaca, coal-fired power plant, JG Summit, vilma santos
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