IF YOU think the controversial bioethanol project in Cagayan de Oro is dead, or has, at least, gone to other places, think again.

An official of the consortium that proposed the project yesterday indicated that it is not keen on finding other sites for its cassava-feed bioethanol plant; it will still be located in the previously debated area straddling the city’s hinterland watershed zones.

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Tirso Santillan, chief executive officer of Alto Power Management Corporation—a joint venture between Alsons Consolidated Resources and Toyota Tsusho of Japan—said they are on the process of purchasing 10,000 hectares of land in Barangays Mambuaya and Bayanga.

Despite strong opposition from environmental groups, Santillan said the areas within these barangays remain the most viable in terms of water and power supply—key factors needed in running the bioethanol plant.

The Alto official repeated the same pitch when the project was met with intense opposition last year: jobs for the locals and more revenues for the city government.

Santillan said the plant, once completed, will directly employ some 2,700 workers, and benefit cassava farmers in the area. He said they are determined to put the plant into commercial operation in 2012. 

He also mentioned a slew of community projects that the company is planning to implement once they plant starts operating.

Santillan, however, offered no new answers for the environmental concerns earlier posed by several organizations opposing the location of the project.

The Kagay-an Watershed Alliance (Kawal), a coalition academic institutions, civil society and peoples’ organization, pointed out that because the proposed plant would be located at the heart of the city’s watershed zone, it would endanger the habitat of endemic and endangered animal species vulnerable to coal heating, polluted waters, toxic fumes and foul odor that the plant would emit.

The group also fears that the plant would pollute the Cagayan de Oro River, from which it would derive its water supply.

Santillan had earlier said the bioethanol plant would implement a zero-waste operation; Kawal and other opponents of the project location pointed out this technology has not been proven yet. (Nicole Managbanag)