Friday, July 19, 2019

DOT: Coal plant may affect San Carlos’ tourism status

THOUGH the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Western Visayas has no official stand yet on the proposed coal-fired power plant in San Carlos City, its regional director Helen Catalbas said the project, once realized, may affect the status of the city as a globally-recognized top sustainable tourism destination.

Catalbas, at the sidelines of the just-concluded Food and Travel Festival at Ayala Malls Capitol Central in Bacolod City, told SunStar Bacolod that the recent recognitions given to San Carlos are based on its previous “performances” and records.

It can be recalled that the northern-tip city of Negros Occidental was a recipient of the 2017 first Asean Clean Tourist City award earlier this year.

San Carlos bagged the award after complying with the requirements of the Asean Clean Tourist City Standard (ACTCS), which is designed to protect the environment thus, responding to the impacts of climate change and contributing to the sustainable development of Asean cities.

It also aims to provide member-countries with a tool that will improve the quality of tourism in their cities, and increase their marketing competitiveness, but also improve the situation of local residents and their livelihood by alleviating poverty.

In September this year, the city was also awarded as among the 2018 Top 100 Sustainable Destinations by Green Destinations.

The Top 100 Sustainable Destinations initiative aims to recognize tourism destinations that have worked hard to make a difference and take sustainability seriously.

Catalbas said these awards are results of various criteria set and factors considered in the past.

“We have no assurance or guarantee that it may still qualify or sustain these tourism recognitions in the future especially when it already hosts a coal energy generation plant,” she added.

It was reported earlier that SMC Global Power Corp. to develop a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in San Carlos City.

The city council has already concurred the resolutions of the two would-be host barangays, Punaw and Palampas, expressing openness to the project.

Though, Mayor Gerardo Valmayor Jr. said they are still weighing the impacts of the proposed development.

The provincial board, for its part, has yet to act on the proposed ordinance of Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. making Negros Occidental a coal-free province by disallowing the exploration, establishment, and operation of coal-fired power plant here.

The possible effect of the proposed coal-fired power plant to San Carlos in terms of its sustainable tourism push is also among the apprehensions of the Diocese of San Carlos as it strongly opposes the project.

For the DOT, Catalbas reiterated that the agency is not yet ready to make a definite position on the matter, but they hope that the local government can find ways and means to “harmonize” sustainable tourism with the impacts of the proposed coal-fired power plant.

Catalbas stressed that “the game of one would be the loss of the other” unless there is harmonization between the project’s impacts on the environment and social aspect particularly on the life of the people.

“I suggest, we should study it very well before it pushes through,” she said, adding that the long-term impact of the project should be considered.

Though it means development and progress, the tourism official said a study on the health issues and environment especially marine resources is needed.

Catalbas said they expect that they should also be invited in the conduct of public forum and dialogue for the agency to also see the proponent’s concept and direction.

Although she is for renewable energy generation in the province as it is aligned with the DOT’s sustainable tourism initiative, Catalbas noted that “it is not all bad to have one (coal) but we only have to do necessary mitigating measures.”

“Unless the company can convince the community, government leaders and the tourism sector, then they have to rethink their position and think of other sustainable projects,” she added.


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