AN environment court in Mandaue City issued an ex-parte temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) yesterday, directing owners and operators of coal-fired power plants to refrain from transporting coal ash outside their premises.

Regional Trial Court Branch 28 Judge Marilyn Lagura-Yap issued the order restraining Toledo Power Corp., owner and operator of the original coal-fired power plant in Barangay Sangi, Toledo City and Cebu Energy Development Corp. and/or Global Business Power Corp., owners and operators of additional coal-fired power plants in Barangay Sangi, Toledo City from moving coal ash.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

The other private respondents are SPC Power Corp. (Salcon Power Corp.), owner and operator of the original coal-fired power plant in Barangay Colon, City of Naga and Kepco-SPC, owner and operator of additional coal-fired power plants still in Barangay Colon.

The order also prevents the respondents' "respective agents or representatives from disposing, dumping and transporting outside the premises of their respective coal-fired power plants, the coal ash or coal combustion residuals which are generated from the operations of such plants."

The ex-parte Tepo, said Judge Yap, will only be effective for 72 hours from the receipt of the order.

"The private respondents are enjoined from disposing coal ash from their power plants indiscriminately as they do not have surface impoundment or sanitary landfill required by law," said Yap in the order.

"Petitioners have also presented scientific and medical bases to establish the fact that coal ash contains hazardous chemicals that may lead to serious threats to the health of the persons exposed to such and irreversible damage to the environment," she added.

The Tepo issuance is the second in the country, according to Philippine Judicial Academy Research, Linkages and Publications Office Chief Sedfrey Candelaria.

"The first was in Mindanao," he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Benjamin Cabrido Jr., counsel for the petitioners, said the first Tepo involved a mining case in Surigao, Caraga region.

Yap, presiding judge of the environment court in Mandaue City, said the petitioners cited an opinion by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that coal combustion residuals, commonly known as coal ash, contain contaminants, like mercury, cadmium and arsenic associated with cancer and various other health effects.

She added the EPA's risk assessment and damage cases showed the contaminants could leach into the ground water and often migrate to drinking water resources.

The court applied the precautionary principle as stated in the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, which took effect last April 29.

According to the rules, "when human activities may lead to threats of serious and irreversible damage to the environment that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid and diminish that threat."

The petition for issuance of an environmental protection order (EPO) on operators of coal-fired power plants to stop moving or transporting any amount of coal combustion residuals or coal ash outside their premises was filed last Aug. 12 by lawyers Benjamin Cabrido Jr. and Dante Ramos.

The petitioners, who were seeking that an ex-parte Tepo be issued, are the Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc., Central Visayas Farmers' Development Center, Central Visayas Fisherfolks Development Center and concerned citizens of the cities of Toledo and Naga.

The other respondents are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Energy, Cebu Gov. Gwen-dolyn Garcia, the Provincial Board, Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr., Toledo City Mayor Aurelio Espinosa and City of Naga Mayor Valdemar Chiong. (BAP)