CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia challenged environmentalists to subsidize the cost of generating power from renewable energy sources.

Garcia said using solar or wind energy will increase the cost of power to as much as P30 to P50 per kilowatt hour.

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The governor asked environmentalists, like lawyer Benjamin Cabrido, if they are willing to subsidize the cost because the government cannot.

“We can't afford to subsidize that at the expense of other social services that we must spend for," she said.

She asked environmentalists to look for a group that can subsidize the cost.

"It is so easy to say that (clean energy) and that's sounds good. Nobody will argue with you about that. Ako, I will not argue with him. But I just hope he can also give us a way by which we may be able to ensure that power cost will be peg at levels that the ordinary household consumer can afford," she told reporters.

Environmentalists filed last Thursday a petition for the issuance of an environmental protection order.

One of its objects is to let government officials find a way to tap renewable energy.

"This is a wake-up call for the Department of Energy and other officials to shift to renewable sources of energy," said Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.

"I hope Cebuanos will join us in this crusade for renewable energy," she added.

The petition was the first in the province that was filed under the new rules of procedures on environmental cases.

The petitioners sought for a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo), which enjoins and restrains owners and operators of coal-fired power plants from moving o transporting coal ash outside their plant premises.

The private respondents are Toledo Power Corp., Cebu Energy Development Corp. and/or Global Business Power Corp. and SPC Power Corp. (Salcon Power Corp.) and Kepco-SPC joint venture company.

Cabrido, counsel for the petitioners, said the Kepco-SPC coal-fired power plant that is still under construction could generate 1,300 metric tons per day once operations starts.

"If this is used as cement additive, only 40 percent of the amount can be used. What would happen to the other 60 percent?" he asked.

The petitioners underscored that coal ash is toxic, hazardous and harmful to the environment and the people's health. They provided the court with studies and test results from various agencies with most showing that coal ash contains heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic.

"We feel it's high time for citizens to make known to the government and private sector that they should take issue on their right to life, to health and to a balanced ecology seriously. We have remedies now accorded to citizens," said Ramos.

Ramos, together with representatives of the Central Visayas Farmers' Development Center, Central Visayas Fisherfolks Development Center and concerned citizens of the cities of Toledo and Naga, asked respondents to cease hauling and dumping of coal ash in the cities of Naga and Toledo.

The respondents include the energy department, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the governors and the mayors of Toledo and Naga cities.

The petitioners also sought a writ of mandamus, asking the respondents to formulate and implement rules in the proper and sound disposal of coal ash consistent with environmental justice.

"Be that as it may, let me assure Cabrido and the rest of his noisy environmentalists, ako, 'di ko kutob yawyaw (I don’t just talk)," she added.

She said the Provincial Government is "actually now taking concrete steps to employ clean energy where we can."

She said the Capitol is “seriously” looking at putting up solar-powered streetlights in the province.

Garcia wants to tap Asian Development Bank's division focusing on renewable and clean energy to assist the Capitol in putting up the street lighting project.

They are also looking at using solar-power electricity and solar panels at the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).

"If you would notice, the architecture of CICC is perfect for the installation of solar panels right at the top," she added.

There's already a solar panel placed near her office for testing, she said.

She added that Energy Sec. Rene Almendras informed her ADB has a project with the Department of Energy (DOE) for the conversion of the ordinary incandescent fluorescent lamps into CFL bulbs that are more energy-efficient.

She said Almendras may opt to make Cebu a pilot area for the project. (RSA/BAP)