By Adam J. Ang
A GROUP of petitioners asked a Palawan court to stop the planned construction of a coal-fired power plant by the power arm of DMCI Holdings, Inc.
Environmental groups and some community leaders in Narra town, which were assisted by the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, filed with the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa on Tuesday a complaint against DMCI Power Corp. for its pipeline 15-megawatt (MW) power plant project.
They are asking the court to issue an environmental protection order that will compel the company to stop pursuing its project. They also seek to cancel the implementation of its environmental compliance certificate (ECC) granted by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) in the Calabarzon region.
“The battle of Palawenos against coal has already been a long one, and we can neither afford nor intend to lose it. Letting coal in would cost the welfare of our people and of Palawan’s rich biodiversity,” Grizelda Mayo-Anda, the petitioners’ legal counsel, said in a virtual briefing.
The said order will also mandate the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development to review the strategic environmental plan clearance, which it issued to the power firm in 2015, as well as to prevent various local government agencies, including the Narra mayor’s office, from awarding other permits for the project.
The company secured an ECC for the project last year. It was also considered as an energy project of national significance by the Department of Energy (DoE). The coal-run generator was first opposed in 2012.
The petitioners also wanted the court to issue a writ of continuing mandamus, which will require the EMB to revisit and review DMCI Power’s ECC application, noting the company’s failure to conduct public hearings on the project and to provide clear impact projections, among others.
“Nakita natin ang maraming pagkukulang sa pagsusuri nila (DENR) ng ECC application ng DMCI Power (The DENR’s evaluation of the ECC application of DMCI Power was not substantial),” Ms. Anda said.
DMCI Power is operating four existing diesel and bunker fuel-fired power plants across Palawan. It has three other power generators in Masbate, Oriental Mindoro, and Sultan Kudarat.
The publication reached out to the company for comments, but it has yet to respond as of press time.
One of the petitioners, Cynthia S. Del Rosario of Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy, said the province has “more than enough” of power capacity, which stands at 57 MW, to meet its present demand around 50 MW.
“Sa option na kung kailangan mag-entertain ng bagong service contracts, dapat renewable energy na, (In entertaining new service contracts, they must be renewable energy projects)” she added.
Sustainability think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), another petitioner, feared that if the project will go online, it will raise power rates paid for by consumers. It cited the previous P9.38 per kilowatt-hour generation tariff in the supply contract between DMCI Power and the Palawan Electric Cooperative.
“There is no reason why Palawenos must be made to suffer exorbitant rates when renewable energy sources capable of providing cheap and clean electricity abound in our country,” Avril De Torres, the group’s research head, said.
In the first half of 2020, DMCI Power chipped in P256 million in income share to parent DMCI Holdings, Inc., a 10% increase from last year, attributed to higher energy sales in Palawan and lower fuel costs.
Shares in DMCI inched up 0.25% to close at P4.04 each on Tuesday.