MAC: Mines and Communities

Coal's a burning problem in the Philippines

Published by MAC on 2009-05-05

Last month, on Earth Day, thousands of protesters took to the streets in the Philippine province of South Cotabato to protest against a planned coal-fired power plant.

Claiming "there is no such thing as 'clean coal'" the demonstrators said the plant would "only enrich" local business interests - including the linked interests of domestic mining company, Sagittarius and its UK-Swiss affiliate, Xstrata, which owns the huge Tampakan copper-gold prospect located 50km north of General Santos city.

Meanwhile, the country's environmental agency is filing charges of pollution against another mining company, operating in the Western Visayas.

Thousands join anti coal-plant protest on Earth Day, dirty energy source assailed

LRC/KsK-FoE Phils


23rd April 2009

General Santos City -Thousands of environmental rights activists in this city and the neighbouring Sarangani Province turned Earth Day celebration into an anti-coal fired power plant protest-rally at the downtown plaza yesterday.

"This protest-rally is a proof of the people's vehement opposition to the planned coal-fired power plant in the Municipality of Maasim " said Fr. Roming Catedral, director of the Social Action Centre of the Diocese of Marbel and main organizer of the protest.

His Excellency Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, DD of the Diocese of Marbel also spoke in the rally and encouraged the crowd to continue opposing the project.

In a manifesto signed by various groups including church peoples, civil society and peoples' organizations, academe, youth and students, farmers and fisher folks, workers, women and professionals from and nearby SOSKSARGEN areas, the protesters expressed their strong opposition to the project and call on concerned government agencies and the proponent company - Conal Holdings Corporation (CHC), to abandon the plan.

"We reiterate our reasons and arguments based on facts and experiences that the project will not bring sustainable development to the people of SOSKSARGEN but rather aggravate environmental degradation and will eventually pose problems to human health", the manifesto said.

The manifesto further reads that "Southern Mindanao Power Plant (SM200) will not serve the people of SOCSKSARGEN" but will only enrich the business interest of the dominant local elite and that of Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI), holder of the multibillion Tampakan Gold and Copper project based in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

"Conal Holdings Corporation (CHC) owns Kamanga Coal Fired Power Plant (now called Southern Mindanao Powerplant). Alson, Inc. owns the Filipino majority shares in SMI. Both companies (Conal Holdings Corporation and Alsons, Inc.) belong to the Alcantara group of companies. It is not illogical to assume that Kamanga Coal Fired Power Plant will serve the needs of SMI. CHC's plan is to eventually produce 900MW. SMI, when it starts its operation would need about 400MW" Catedral added.

The protesters argued that there is no such thing as "clean coal" and that "there is no such thing as clean coal technology. The technology that CONAL plans to use in its proposed CFPP called Circulating Fluidized Bed combustion Technology (CFBCT) will not yield zero carbon emissions. In fact it might release more carbon dioxide emissions since CFBCT will allow the use of low grade coal or a mixture of low grade and high grade coal or other fuel such as biomass."

"Coal is the dirtiest source of energy. Coal plants emit billions of tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere each year that accounts to 72% of CO2 emissions from power generation and 41% of total global emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels. Coal burning also emits chemicals including Sulphur dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and other Particulate Matters (PM) that are hazardous to health" said Jean Marie Ferraris of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Centre (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils) based in Davao said.

The group warned also of wanton environmental destruction that would result from coal mining to supply the power plant needs.

"Coal extraction to be used in the plant necessitates topsoil and vegetation removal in many areas, where surface mining will require the removal of 500-800 feet or more of elevation by blowing up these mountains using millions of pounds of explosives" Catedral asserts.

"In our case, Conal has already entered into a supply deal with Sultan Mining and Energy Development Corp (SMEDC). SMEDC through its subsidiary MG Mining and Energy Corp. (MGMEC) and Sultan Energy Philippines Coroporation (SEPC) now holds Coal Operating Contracts (COC) and is about to mine around 7,000 hectares of agricultural and forest lands in Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu , South Cotabato . The area is actually part of a Protected Watershed Declaration", Catedral added.

The potential for water pollution, according to the groups manifesto, is also alarming. "Coal is washed and treated before it is loaded on trains, the excess water left over of which, called coal slurry or sludge are stored in open coal impoundments. Coal sludge is a mix of water, coal dust, clay and toxic chemicals such as arsenic mercury, lead, copper, and chromium. Impoundments are held in place by mining debris, making them very unstable - waiting for another disaster"

The operation of coal fired power plants and the coal mines that provide it with fuel also run counter to government's own avowed efforts to combat climate change the protesters asserted. "Climate change is everybody's concern and should be addressed now. It is the greatest environmental threat of today where thousands have already died because of its impacts," Ferraris emphasized.

The protesters urged the government to invest and re-channel resources to the development of the country's enormous renewable energy sources including solar and wind.

"We also urge the government to come up with a sustainable energy framework based on the principles of economic, environmental and social justice" Ferraris stressed.

The same protest action will also be held today in Koronadal City to manifest their continued opposition to Minining in South Cotabao especially the Copper-Gold Project in Tampakan and coal mining in Brgy. Ned Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

Among the signatories of the manifesto include the Social Action Center, Diocese of Marbel, HESED Foundation - Oblates of Notre Dame, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK/FoE-Phils), SOCSKSARGENDS AGENDA, Sta. Cruz Parish Against Pollution (SCPAP), Hublag Kontra Mina (HUKOM), Columbio Multi-Sectoral Ecology Movement (CMEM), Local Parishes, Panalipdan Youth and PAMALAKAYA
Erwin B. Quinones
Campaigns Paralegal
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
Kasama sa Kalikasan
Friends of the Earth Philippines
(LRC/KsK-FoE Phils)



Manila Times

22nd April 2009

Alcantara-led Conal Holdings Corp. (CHC) said its proposed coal-fired power plant in Saranggani will bring down electricity rates in the province, a company official said.
Gregorio Gonzales Jr., CHC project manager, said the construction of the company's 200-megawatt coal plant within the franchise area of South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II) will generate substantial savings for consumers.

"By stationing our power plant inside the Socoteco II franchise area, we can eliminate the transmission charge which averaged P1.42 per kilowatt hour in 2008," he said.

CHC, a joint venture between the Alcantara group and Thailand 's EGKO, is acquiring necessary permits for the construction of the clean coal power plant in Maasim town.
Socoteco II, on the other hand, holds the franchise for power distribution in Sarangani, General Santos City , and some parts of South Cotabato..

Both have entered into a memorandum of agreement for the supply of 100-megawatts of electricity that will be generated by the Alcantara-led power firm.

The two parties will soon negotiate for the terms and conditions and pricing scheme that, in turn, will have to be submitted to the Energy Regulatory Commission for approval.
Gonzales said consumers from the Socoteco II franchise area will save as much as P0.95 per kilowatt hour once its power station is commissioned by the last quarter of 2012, at the earliest.

He said the cost of electricity could further go down by as much as P0.60 per kilowatt hour as systems losses will be reduced to negligible levels because of the proximity of the proposed plant to Socoteco II's service area.

In a presentation made before the Sangguniang Panlungsod of General Santos City early this month, Joseph Nocos, CHC vice president, said cheaper cost of power could save a medium-sized cold storage plant as much as P800,000 per year.

Based on their study, Alson Aqua Corp. could save as much as P3 million a year given their proposed pricing scheme.

In addition to helping lower rates in the region, Gonzales said the proposed P20-billion coal plant will address the looming shortage of power supply in Mindanao .

Generated capacity of the Mindanao grid is pegged at 1,510 megawatts but increased demand has put a strain on its reserve capacity.

Industry sources said the Mindanao grid is operating at less than the industry standard of 15-percent reserve capacity.


Nestor P. Burgos Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

23rd April 2009

ILOILO CITY - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Western Visayas is standing by its report alleging that the Semirara Mining Corp. (SMC) violated environmental laws by polluting the waters and marine resources of Semirara Island .

Bienvenido Lipayon, regional director of the DENR Environment Management Bureau (EMB), defended his recommendation to the DENR's Pollution and Adjudication Board (PAB) to file a pollution case against the company and issue a cease-and-desist order (CDO) on its coal washing plant.

The SMC has threatened to file criminal and administrative charges against Lipayon for allegedly filing false reports against the company.

In a statement issued by its lawyer Romulo San Juan, the SMC accused Lipayon of being hostile to the company because it opposed his request to replace the chairman of a multiparty committee that oversees an environment fund put up by the SMC.

"I'm not aware that they will be filing a case against me. But my report is not erroneous or false," Lipayon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview on Saturday.

He said the report was based on the complaint filed by residents of Barangay Alegria, one of the three villages of the island, and the results of meetings of the Multi-Partite Monitoring Team (MMT).

The MMT, composed of representatives of the DENR, SMC, residents and local government units, ensures that the operations comply with conditions of the environmental certificate of compliance (ECC) issued by the DENR for the company to operate.
In his recommendation, Lipayon noted that there was "prima facie evidence" against the company on the "disposal of coal material and tailings into the Suja Creek and to the sea."

The EMB also recommended the issuance of a P45,000 fine against the company for violating three conditions of its ECC.

SMC has denied that its operations and its coal washing plant have caused the siltation. It said typhoons in recent years have caused the run-off from old coal stockpiles.

Ricardo Calderon, DENR Western Visayas regional executive director, said it would be up to the PAB to rule on the merits of the allegation against SMC.

"[Lipayon] is just doing his job. And it's normal for us working in government to be subjects of complaints," Calderon told the Inquirer on Monday.

Calderon said due process was observed in the complaint filed by the residents and the issuance of a notice of violation against the SMC.

A group of environmentalists and scientists who conducted an inspection on April 16-17 also confirmed the coal siltation.

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