Palawan deserves renewable energy. A coal plant is out of place in the county’s last ecological frontier

June 5, 2015

By PACE

As we celebrate World Environment Day today, June 5th, it is important to highlight Palawan’s continuing fight against the pursuit of coal power.

Contrary to the pretenses of some of our local officials in Palawan, coal is not the answer to the continuing power outages in the province. There is no lack of contracted capacity of power because the existing Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in Palawan has a contracted power capacity of some 54MW. The current peak demand in Palawan is about 33-35MW which leaves an excess of 20MW for reserve and back up.

What exists is the failure of these IPPs to provide the guaranteed dependable capacity based on their Power Supply Agreements (PSA) with the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO). Glaring is the fact that DMCI, proponent of the coal-fired thermal power plant had 9 diesel engines not functioning, and despite not being able to deliver a huge portion of the guaranteed dependable capacity based on its contract with PALECO, it has transferred some of its working units to stations in Rizal, Quezon and Taytay which are outside of the original contract area.

Following civil society’s engagement with government agencies last year, a masterplan for the energy development of Palawan was prepared and finalized. Based on the Palawan Island Energy Masterplan (PIEMP), the least cost option would be to utilize the renewable energy potential of the province. Potential hydroelectric projects in Palawan have an estimated capacity of 182.47 MW, which can provide energy of up to 959 GWh based on a 60% capacity factor. Integrating coal in the power mix will not result to the least-cost mix of Palawan within the planning period provided in the energy masterplan.

Since 2012 when PALECO entered into a power supply agreement with DMCI which provided for the establishment of a coal-fired thermal power plant, civil society groups and local communities have asserted to our local officials and the Department of Energy (DOE) that a coal plant represents a clear and present danger to the biosphere, the welfare of our citizens and the image of Palawan as the center of biodiversity and environmental conservation in the Philippines.

All we need to do is to look into the experiences of communities in Cebu and Quezon as well as in India, China, USA and Germany to know the adverse environmental, health and livelihood impacts of coal power plants. The true cost of coal power embodies high unpaid health liabilities which must ultimately be paid by our citizens and the government. It shortens lives, reduces labor productivity and is the major source of greenhouse gases leading to climate change.

Existing efforts in Palawan and in the national level to protect Palawan’s biodiversity and enhance its tourism value will be threatened by the environmental and health effects of coal power projects. Almost the whole province of Palawan is included among the 78 tourism development areas being implemented by the National Tourism Development Plan.

The superficial cheapness of coal should not be the only consideration for allowing a coal-fired power plant in Palawan because the risks it brings far outweighs the benefits it can provide to an ecologically rich and sensitive province.

We are disturbed by the efforts to politicize the processes and violate our environmental governance laws in order to expedite the clearances and approvals needed for the establishment of the coal-fired power plant.

We reiterate our call on every Palaweno to send letter-petitions protesting the mockery of our laws and processes to key national officials, the provincial governor, to all the government officials who sit in the PCSD, to the barangay officials of San Isidro, Narra and the municipal officials of Narra. We must continue the battle of the residents of Panacan, Narra and San Juan, Aborlan who resisted this dirty and harmful energy project, and ensure that a coal plant is not built in San Isidro, Narra and anywhere in Palawan.###