KORONADAL CITY -- Opposition to a planned 200 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Maasim, Sarangani province remained strong despite the daily rotating power interruptions experienced since last week in Central Mindanao.

This as the power supply deficit in the southern Philippines continue to ease, with the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) saying on Sunday that the shortfall was reduced further to 43 MW, although available supply continues to plunge.

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In its daily outlook posted on its website, the country's private operator of the power transmission network noted that available capacity stood at 1,022 MW against peak load of 1,065 MW.

On Friday, the utility firm said the available capacity for the day stood at 1,041 MW against peak load of 1,190 MW, or a deficit of 149 MW.

On Thursday, NGCP said the available capacity was 1,039 MW against peak load of 1,195 MW, or a shortfall 156 MW.

With an El Nino felt in several parts of the country, the NGCP had blamed the low water level in Lake Lanao from which the 700-MW Agus hydroelectric power plants draw water. Over half of Mindanao’s capacity is drawn from the Agus plants of the National Power Corp (NPC).

At a press conference here following a summit on climate change on Saturday afternoon, religious and grassroots leaders said the power outages should not be made an excuse to pursue the $450 million coal power plant project the Alcantara-led Conal Holdings Corp. plans to build within the first quarter of the year.

At least 60 religious, civil and grassroots leaders attended the two-day summit dubbed "Let Their Voices Be Heard: The people's collective struggle towards climate justice, equity and sustainable."

They urged Conal Holdings to pursue renewable energy sources instead of the coal power plant, which they warn would pose adverse effects to the environment and human health.

"Given that we have power outages, we’re in a state of El Nino [that] is not permanent. When the water levels return to normal, then the power supply should also return to normal. That coal plant project [of Conal Holdings] should not be pursued," said Fr. Romeo Q. Catedral, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel.

Stressing they will continue to oppose the proposed coal plant project, the priest cited a forecast allegedly issued by the NPC that power interruption is expected to hit the island still in 2016.

"The power shortfall we're experiencing now is largely brought by the dry spell so the coal plant is not an answer to the problem," Catedral said.

Conal Holdings has said its coal plant project would avert a power crisis in the island, particularly in Central Mindanao, two to three years from now.

Mariano Panugas, spokesperson of the Maasim People's Coalition on Climate Change, advised power consumers, especially the big shopping malls, to save on electricity use to improve the power situation in the island, as he rejected Conal Holdings’ power plant project in his town.

"Such project would be disastrous. It will affect the local fishermen and farmers," Panugas said.

Joseph C. Nocos, Conal Holdings vice president, said the coal plant, which will rise near the shoreline of Sarangani Bay and Celebes Sea, would employ the latest technology designed to contain pollutants even way below the acceptable domestic and international standards.

"There's nothing to fear in our project because we’re putting in place the necessary measures that will protect the environment and the health of the public," he said in an earlier interview. (BSS)