GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- An Alcantara-led power generation firm is eyeing to put up a coal-fired power plant in Zamboanga City, a senior company official confirmed Monday.

Joseph C. Nocos, Conal Holdings Corp. vice president, said they will consider such development and will continue with $450-million coal-fueled power plant project in nearby Maasim, Sarangani.

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"Technical feasibility studies will commence next week in two sites in Zamboanga for a 100-megawatt [coal-fired power] plant," he said.

Declining to state the specific barangays, Nocos said the studies will be done in Zamboanga City's east and west coast.

Should the Zamboanga venture will be pushed, investment will cost around $250 million, Nocos noted.

The executive said the planned Zamboanga foray is part of the company's expansion strategy in the power generation industry.

Conal Holdings, which is 60 percent owned by Alsons Corp and the rest by the Electricity Generating Public Co., Thailand's largest power producer, announced during the 16th Mindanao Business Conference in September 2007 its interest to venture in the coal plant power generation business in the southern Philippines.

To date, however, Conal Holdings has yet to start construction of its first 200 MW coal power plant in Maasim, Sarangani, which was initially set to commence in 2008.

The company has already obtained an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for its Maasim project.

Nocos declined to give reasons why the Maasim project in the village of Kamanga is delayed.

The coal plant development site lies near a world-class diving spot. The project is opposed by the local Catholic Church and environmental groups on concerns over human health and the environment.

Last Saturday, Sarangani Representative Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, the seven-time world boxing champion, went scuba diving at the famous dive spot along with several congressmen to promote the tourism spots of the province.

Pacquiao had expressed opposition to the coal plant project of Conal Holdings in September last year as he bared plans to run as congressman of the province, which he clinched by a landslide in the May 10 polls.

"I swear that I will protect our seas and will not allow anyone to pollute the air that we breathe," Pacquiao had written in his column "Kumbinasyon" in a national tabloid.

Pacquiao, chair of the Mindanao-wide Task Force Save Earth, pointed out that coal-fired power plants across the globe, including the United States, are being shutdown due to ill-effects.

Coal plants are the major cause of acid rain, he argued.

Pacquiao said the project will be dangerous to the majority while only a few influential families could benefit from it, apparently referring to the Alcantaras.

Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez, an Alcantara scion, has been backing the coal plant, saying it will boost the economic potentials of the province.

Nocos earlier said the firm welcomes opposition to the project but is open to dialogues to thresh out concerns.

"But we assure you the project will be put in place with sufficient measures to protect the environment compliant to domestic and international standards," Nocos said.