By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Environmental groups in Ilocos rebuked the claims of economic benefits by coal-fired power plant proponents. The Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) and Save Sual Movement (SSM), in a separate statement, argued that health and environmental cost out weights the promise of jobs and royalties from the coal-fired plants.
Two companies are set to build to coal-fired power plant in the region. The P80-Billion 670 megawatt twin-plant of Global Luzon Energy Development Corporation (GLEDC) in Luna, La Union and the P47-Billion 1,000 MW plant of South Korean energy giant Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).
Both organizations believe that residents, and the neighboring towns will be at the losing end of these projects.
Rosanna Marie Soriano, president of SSM said that KEPCO only presented “half truth” about its projects impact when it announced that it will create 5000 jobs during construction and collect about P800 million in real-property tax annually.
Her group explained that while the construction of the plant will require a considerable number of labor force, it will eventually “trim down to a few hundred skilled worker and office personnel.”
The same tactic was utilized by GLEDC and Mayor Vic Marron of Luna town. They flaunted to the media and the public the need for at least 3,000 workers and the P500-million in real property tax if the project proceeds.
For Defend Ilocos, its just routine for companies investing in coal-fired plants “to highlight the economic benefits” and “use of emission-reducing technology” but in the long term operation “this will entail heavier environmental and social cost.” The environmental network said that the plant which GLEDC and KEPCO intend to build are for big businesses and not for the local residents.
Mayor Roberto Arcinue explained that the Pangaisnan, the municipality of Sual and Barangay Baquioen will be share the revenue with each receiving 35%, 40% 25% respectively.
He also claimed in the past that revenue from the existing plant made Sual into a first class municipality. The town is the location of the 1,200 MW coal-fired plant, the country’s biggest in the country, operated by Team Energy. It started providing service in 1999 and full power capacity was delivered in 2007.
However, revenue seems to play a minimal role in the overall poverty situation in the area. In 2012, Sual ranked 8th among the municipalities generating locally sourced revenues. But she was also identified by the Provincial Poverty Reduction Action Team as one of the 10 municipalities with the highest poverty incidence.
GLEDC and KEPCO have boasted that their plant will run with the latest technology. Both local governments of Sual and Luna also claimed that the plants will be “environmentally-friendly.”
However, the groups are not convinced.
Defend Ilocos explained that “decades of utilizing coal for power generation across the globe have proven its detrimental impacts to our health and environment.” The group also pointed that “low-emission coal power facilities fail to address the overall impact of the coal industry from extraction, transport, stockpiling and waste disposal.”
It added that countries touted to have the most efficient coal fleet like Japan, China, and the United States failed to curbed the environmental and health issues associated with coal and coal-fired plants.
Soriano’s group, in its statement, mentioned a study by Dr. Romeo Quino of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in KEPCO’s 200 MW coal-powered energy facility in Naga, Cebu. The doctor was able to identify heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and arcenic in high concentrations from coal ash samples taken from the area. Residents in the place complained of of air, water and land pollution prompting even the Asian Development Bank, who funded the project to admit the said problems.
“Humihingi kami noon ng report mula sa LGU at sa planta kaugnay sa epekto nito sa environment pero wala naman silang ibinigay sa amin,” Soriano said. To bolster their proof, SMM will undertake water and air testing on March 31 to April 2 in the vicinity of the existing plant.
An independent consultant and researcher, Dr. Freddie Obligacion, in his published study in 2015 of 410 households from four major coal-powered plants found that “major coal-fueled plants in the country have adversely impacted our fellow citizens’ environment, health, livelihood, and life satisfaction.”
Health was the major impact area cited in the study. According to the document, fewer illness were experienced by the residents prior to the operation of the facilities. However, after the plants started operation, reports of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, skin allergies, infections, headaches and diarrhea became common. Of the respondents who encountered these diseases, 69% attributed it to the presence of the coal-fired power plant in their community.
No direct consumption
“Wala namang isang bahay dito na directly sa coal plant kumukuha ng kuryente, huwag niya (Arcinue) sabihin na kami ang pangunahing nakikinabang dahil dumadaan naman ito sa grid, its not only the coal plant that supplies the energy we use. Maganda sana kung diretly at libre ang kuryente pero hindi naman. Binabayaran nga namin yan. Kapag tumataas ang kuryente ay tumataas din ang sa amin kahit pa nandito ang biggest coal plant,” explianed Soriano.
The statement was her reaction to Arcinue’s foolish call to for SMM members to “refrain from using electricity produced by the power plant” to prove their sincerity in opposing KEPCO’s facility.
In 2015, Pangasinan was reported to having the highest electricity rate in Region 1 with a price tag of P17.7595 per kwh.
Soriano said that her group are experiencing harassment from the local chief executive. While she claims to have not experience direct attacks, her family and colleagues are being singled-out.
“Yung mga kasamahan ko ang nakakaranas, lalo na yung mga nasa wharf area. Palaging sumusulat ang iba’t ibang office ng munisipyo, ang MENRO, Engineering Office at sinasabing dapat umalis sila. Pero ang pinapaalis lamang ay yung mga sumasapi sa amin samaantalang mga allies nila ay hindi naman pinapaalis,” the SSM leader narrated.
She added that even her family are threatened through their businesses.
“Marami siyang (Arcinue) sinisita na kung ano-anong violations namin, na we are not in compliance of somethings, gaya ng building code,” she said.
Like Soriano and her group, members of Defend Ilocos also experience harassment. The group said that its network TIMEK La Union, a fisherfolk organization that is opposing the construction the coal-fired plant in Luna are being monitored by the local police.
“In November 2017, PNP personnel went looking for TIMEK officers and members in Agoo and Bauang, and told the barangay officials that it is a front organization of the New People’s army,” stated the group in its year-end report.
“Everybody desires progress, but let us have it in the proper, clean, safe and sustainable way… not with coal that will endanger our lives, our family and the future generations of Sual,” noted SMM in its statement.
Defend Ilocos on the other hand is pushing for the prioritization of “ industrial and service sector investments with less ecological impacts” to create jobs. The group also said that local governtments are “better off promoting rural development by pursuing genuine agrarian reform to strengthen agriculture and the fishery sector.” # nordis.net