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Recent permit for Palawan coal plant dodged, says envi NGO

By Keith Anthony S. Fabro

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 1 (PNA) — The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) took a "shortcut" when it gave clearance to the controversial proposed 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the province, said an environmental non-government organization (NGO).

According to Atty. Robert Chan, executive director of the Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI) in a press conference Friday, the interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral body sidestepped the function of its Environment Critical Areas Network (ECAN) Board, a scientific and research body.

Chan explained that once the project earned permits from LGU, it should then be referred to ECAN Board in municipal level, which reviews the classification of the area as provided in R.A. 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan of Palawan.

Once the project's technical descriptions, specifically its pros and cons, were reviewed, ECAN Board would provide recommendations necessary for the issuance of SEP clearance.

But it didn’t happen, he said, prompting his group to plan lodging a motion for reconsideration (MR) before the PCSD that will question such "hasty" permit issuance that they claimed was "railroaded" by Governor Jose Alvarez, who also chairs the Council.

"Dapat pag-uusapan pa sana ito sa ECAN Board sa Narra kung saan inaasahang magmumula ang debate bago ito irekomenda sa Council, pero ngayon napagbotohan na pala (The project is supposedly subject for scrutiny of the ECAN Board in Narra before it would be recommended for approval in the Council; however, it turned out they skipped the procedure)," he argued, citing the amended PCSD Administrative No. 6 stating so.

Chan furthered said the MR will compel them to provide a written explanation as to the basis of procedures they took before the issuance.

"Wala kaming makitang PCSD administrative order na nagsasabing pwedeng idiretso na sa Council ang proyekto nang di man lang dumaan sa ECAN Board (We cannot find any PCSD administrative order permitting the Council to skip the ECAN Board review)," he added.

In its regular meeting, PCSD only made an affirmation to the SEP clearance given to project proponent DMCI Power Corporation way back 2013, a thing Chan's group also questioned.

"Gusto naming malaman kung anong administrative order ang nagsasabing pwede ang conditional approval at affirmation na lang [ng clearance] mula sa Council, dahil sa tagal naming nagmo-monitor ng PCSD ay hindi namin alam ang patungkol sa ganung procedure (We want to know what administrative order stating that the conditional approval and clearance affirmation from the Council is acceptable, because for years of monitoring PCSD we don't know of the existence of such procedure)," he said.

PCSD Staff Spokesperson Alex Marcaida answered this in a previous media interview saying, "DMCI had already complied the requirement for SEP Clearance in 2013, thus the Council only affirmed it with its new proposed site, where they have secured endorsements."

Moreover, Chan lambasted PCSD on its "blatant disregard of the Palawan Island Master Plan for Energy Development which shows that renewable energy, specifically hydropower is the cheapest source of power."

He too raised the failure of DMCI to provide a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report which would describe the nature of the project, location, environmental and social impacts, as well as mitigating measures.

EIA and SEP clearance are the requirement before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) could grant the project an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC), which is the final permit that DMCI needs to begin construction.

As to the barangay council endorsement, Chan said the ones issued by its proposed site San Isidro in Narra town, is insufficient since it would also affect nearby barangays.

"Saan ba pupunta ang usok, ang kontaminadong tubig, ang mga masasamang kemikal? Hindi lang 'yan mapupunta sa iisang barangay lamang, kaya't kulang ang iisang endorsement; dapat kuhaan din ang mga karatig barangay nito dahil 'primary stakeholders' din sila (Where do smokes, contaminated water and hazardous chemicals go? It will not only harm one barangay, that's why one endorsement is insufficient; the proponent should also get one each from nearby barangays surrounding the proposed site as they too are 'primary stakeholders')," he pointed out.

Chan added his group will bring the matter to President Aquino in an appeal to prevent the proposed project that has since been bumping into a roadblock. (PNA)

CTB/CARF/KASF/EBP

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