People’s group, energy insti,
EO 30 to expedite
‘irregularity-ridden’ Atimonan coal project
May 25, 2018
QUEZON CITY –
Energy groups and Atimonan community members scored Department of
Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi for considering Atimonan One
Energy, Inc.’s (A1E) “irregularity-ridden” Atimonan coal power plant
as one of the first energy projects to be classified as an Energy
Project of National Significance (EPNS) under Executive Order 30 (EO
“Secretary Cusi’s positive
consideration of the Atimonan coal power plant project as an EPNS is
a huge blow to the Atimonan community – especially to Atimonan
fisherfolk and farmers,” said Atimonan fisherfolk member Joseph
“Atimonan residents have
suffered deception and harassment, on top of loss of livelihood and
health, in the push for the hasty and irregular approval and
construction of its coal plant project in Atimonan,” said Benedict.
“The Atimonan community,
together with civil society organizations, have been putting up a
long fight against this coal project – their impending
classification as EPNS tells us the government is not on our side
here,” said Benedict.
Under EO 30, permit
applications of EPNS-classified projects shall be acted upon by
concerned government agencies not exceeding a 30-day period;
otherwise, said permit applications are automatically deemed
Atty. Aaron Pedrosa expressed alarm that this mechanism now appears
to be a tool for prioritizing and legitimizing “dubious and
destructive” energy projects like the proposed Atimonan power plant,
a project with a long record of violating processes established to
protect the interests of electricity consumers and host communities.
Pedrosa cites Meralco,
through its power generation arm Meralco PowerGen Corp. (MGen) that
wholly owns the Atimonan One Energy (A1E), as a ‘habitual violator’
of procedures and human and ecological rights.
Atimonan fisherfolk member
Joseph Benedict recounted instances of irregularities in the
procurement of community consent to the project.
“On 2012, Atimonan
community members, including fisherfolk, were made to be on board
the Atimonan project because it postured as a Liquefied Natural Gas
project. On 2014, however, the project turned out to be of coal
plants instead. However, no new public scoping was made in response
to this new project, and the conducted public hearing had suppressed
opposing community members, like my fellow fisherfolk, from voicing
out our resistance,” said Benedict.
Benedict stated that this
kind of suppression of opposition from communities is on top of
instances of harassment and land grabbing made against fisherfolk
and coconut farmers alike.
According to Sanlakas
Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, this irregular conduct of
procuring local consent violates Sections 26 and 27 Local Government
Code, provisions which require a meaningful consultation with local
government units, nongovernmental organizations, and other sectors
concerned as regards any project.
Pedrosa also stated that
aside from irregularities in the process for local consultation with
the people of Atimonan, MGen’s coal project has also been involved
in violating the process for submission of Power Supply Agreements (PSAs)
in the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), a process which seeks to
ensure that electricity consumers are given the cheapest, most
competitive source of electricity.
“MGen, along with other
Meralco-affiliated coal companies, have been the subject of cases
filed in the Ombudsman for their alleged collusion with officials
from the ERC,” said Pedrosa.
“Clearly, MGen has formed
a habit of gross disregard for law and for community welfare,” he
institution Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED)
claimed that the consideration of the Atimonan project as one of the
first possible EPNS highlights how EO30 can be utilised to advance a
fossil fuel-dependent energy development path for the next 20-25
years in under 30 days.
“Globally, the trend is
towards retiring existing coal-fired power plants, whether HELE or
not, and to stop further implementation of coal projects. Coal
projects are increasingly becoming obsolete and economically
unviable,” said CEED Legal and Policy Officer Atty. Avril De Torres.
De Torres cited studies by
energy economics institutes which emphasized findings on governments
worldwide that have been adopting policies of pricing coal projects
according to surfaced environmental, health, and economic costs of
constructing and maintaining coal projects.
According to De Torres,
these resulting changes in the global energy market put coal
projects at the risk of being stranded assets and it is the public
at large that will be paying for an economically unviable coal
“The classification of
coal plant projects as an EPNS goes against existing policies, laws
and global trends that favor renewable energy projects over fossil
fuels,” said De Torres.
“It’s frightening to think
that because a coal project can be considered as EPNS, it can be
decided in less than a month to be our source of energy for the next
decades,” she concluded.