By Azer N. Parrocha
MANILA, July 15 (PNA) — Admitting that he was neither pro nor anti coal plant, Palawan Gov. Jose Chaves Alvarez said that his greatest concern is to be able to provide the poor residents of the province with electricity.
Alvarez made the statement in response to Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.’s call to reject the proposed 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Palawan.
To recall, the coal plant earned a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance last May from the multi-sectoral and inter-disciplinary body Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), which has the authority for approving projects in the province.
Jimenez, in earlier reports, stressed that the coal plant could bring damage to Palawan’s ecosystem which could also threaten income and employment in the province as well as in the country.
“It’s the poor clamoring for some lights,” Alvarez told reporters in an interview, noting that 30 percent of the province’s areas are still without electricity.
“Sec. Jimenez can suggest all kinds of power. I will accept it, I’m not choosy. He says we don’t need coal in Palawan but how do we address the poor?” he added.
With the go signal from the PCSD, energy company DMCI Power Corp. (DPC) needs only a final permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) before construction of the coal plant kicks off.
Alvarez, however, refused to believe that the construction of the coal plant would pose ecological or even health risks. He said that coal technology nowadays is emission-free.
He explained that Cebu, for example, currently has two coal-fired power plants to serve the Visayas Region and avoid power crises.
“I’m not a proponent of coal don’t get me wrong,” the governor said, urging environmentalists that opposed the coal plant to come up with a better solution to provide the province with electricity and alleviate poverty.
“I’m not trying to argue with environmentalists but we have to address the needs of the poor — we have to be practical,” he added.
The governor further said that DENR would still have the final say on the matter. (PNA)