Council supports higher coal plant capacity

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014


THE 17th Davao City Council on Tuesday approved on second reading a resolution endorsing the expansion of the generating capacity of the energy project of the Therma South Inc. (TSI) from 300 megawatts (MW) to 645 MW, setting five terms and conditions.

However, Councilors Leah Librado-Yap and Antoinette Principe-Castrodes thumbed down the endorsement, manifesting environmental and health issues that have “high possibilities of affecting the next generation.”

The legislators who voted on the affirmative were Councilors Nilo Abellera Jr., Mabel Sunga-Acosta, Victorio Advincula Jr., Bernard Al-ag, Al Ryan Alejandre, Joanne Bonguyan, Louie John Bonguyan, Danilo Dayanghirang, April Dayap, Jimmy Dureza, January Duterte, Rene Elias Lopez, Diosdado Mahipus, Berino Mambo-o, Bonifacio Militar, Tomas Monteverde IV, Myrna Dalodo-Ortiz, Marissa Salvador-Abella, and Rachel Zozobrado.

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The item was jointly handled by five committees -- energy (Louie Bonguyan as chair); environment and natural resources (Dayanghirang as head); rules, privileges, laws and ordinances (chaired by Monterverde); franchises and public utilities (Militar); and housing, rural and urban development (Librado).

Only the committee of housing, rural and urban development did not sign the committee report.

Nevertheless, the terms and conditions set for the endorsement were that the TSI will comply with the conditions set upon the approval of the 300 MW project as stipulated in 2011; the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) will monitor closely the compliance of the TSI to the provisions and of national and local environmental laws; the Multipartite Monitoring Team will submit to the local government a semi-annual report of its findings on TSI’s compliance of conditions set in its ECC on the 300 MW; and the TSI will double its Carbon Sink Management Program commitment and plant additional one million trees.

Further, Acosta suggested including the yearly tree planting, aside from the one million trees commitment, which the number of trees to be planted will be determined by the multipartite monitoring team.

Councilor Louie Bonguyan said the TSI is expected to strictly follow these recommendations.

Librado and Principe-Castrodes said their opposition to the expansion does not mean they question the mitigating measures set by the council and the TSI.

However, Librado said the negative effect of using coal energy cannot be determined yet as of present time.

“My stand against coal-fired power plant is still the same. It will never be good for our health. There’s nothing as of now, but I’m not ready to give up my social responsibility for the next generation. I will not gamble on that,” Librado said in an interview at the sidelines of the session.

Librado was the lone councilor who opposed the approval of the first 300 MW in 2011.

Principe-Castrodes, meanwhile, cited the "intergenerational responsibility concept" introduced by the Supreme Court.

She said the intergenerational responsibility doctrine provides that “the present generation has the responsibility to protect the environment for the future generations to come.”

“I will not discount the mitigating measures but I just cannot risk it. I cannot sleep at night thinking about it. Coal is coal. There is no such thing as clean coal,” she said.

The two councilors said there are other sustainable and renewable energy that can address the energy crisis that the Mindanao and Davao City.

They said the city has the option to pursue hydro, wind and solar energy.

“Why can’t we tap that?” Principe-Castrodes asked.

Business, real property tax collection

During the deliberation, Militar also questioned the matter of the collection of business and real property taxes once the expansion starts.

The construction phase of the coal-fired power plant is located at the boundary of Barangay Binugao, Toril District, Davao City and Barangay Inawayan, Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur.

“These are the matters that we need to compute seriously,” Militar said during the session.

However, Dureza said that the discussion on real property tax was already settled down when the council approved the reclassification of the area from agriculture to industrial zone.

“From then, there was already an adjustment in the payment of the real property tax,” Dureza said.

Meanwhile, Dayanghirang said, “The mayor (Rodrigo Duterte) had already spoken on this (real property tax). He said that whatever is due to Sta. Cruz shall be honored.”

Manuel Orig, first vice president for Mindanao Affairs, reiterated there is a need for additional capacity to fully supply Mindanao's continued development and growth in order to save people from experiencing further brownouts.

He said the construction of the existing 300MW will soon be completed.

Quoting a report from the Department of Energy, Orig said the Mindanao power supply shortfall is projected from 2013 to 2018 and is expected to reach from 50MW to 243MW.

He said the additional 345MW is projected to be enough to meet the power supply requirements by 2020.

"The previous power shortage in Mindanao should not happen again. Remember, it will take three years to build a major power plant," he said.

Orig said the first unit of the currently built coal-fired power plant will be completed by March 2015, while the second unit is set for completion in June 2015.

He said the proposed expansion of the additional 345MW is scheduled to be completed by 2017 for the Unit 3 of 172.5MW, while the additional Unit 4 of 172.5 MW will be scheduled for completion by 2018.

The item is expected to be approved on third and final reading next week.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 19, 2014.

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