By Melissa Luz T. Lopez, Reporter

DENR wants permits frozen on new coal-fired power plants

Posted on September 18, 2015

THE ENVIRONMENT department has asked the Department of Energy (DoE) to stop granting permits for new coal-fired plants, in order to reduce emissions and cut the country’s dependence on coal.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said yesterday that he wrote a letter to the DoE seeking a halt to approvals for coal-fired projects.

“I have my letter to the Department of Energy urging them not to grant any more” permits, Mr. Paje said during the budget briefing of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) at the House of Representatives.

“Our position is that in any country, the power mix must not go beyond 35% or 33% of one power source. If they continue pursuing coal, according to the secretary of DoE herself, she said it can go up to 70%.”

Mr. Paje made the remark in response to a question by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd district) over the continued issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) to coal plants.

“You’ve already granted so many (ECCs), and because we need now, as we look at the future, each one of us should prevent the further production of greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

Under current practice, all applications for building new coal plants are made through the DoE. However, these plants must first secure an ECC from the DENR, among other requirements, before starting operations.

Coal accounts for about a third of the country’s current energy mix, alongside other sources like natural gas and various forms of renewable energy.

“It should not be the ECC that should be restricted. It should be them, because DoE is the controller of power, not us,” Mr. Paje said. “They should not be submitting any plant for ECC anymore, that’s what we are asking.”

The DENR chief added that the Philippines should not rely too heavily on coal plants to supply its power needs, with diversified sources helping minimize disruption should supply of one fuel suddenly be disrupted.

Mr. Paje also said that the country is on track in meeting the National Greening Program target, with planted expected to surpass the 1.5 million mark.

The Environment chief added that the DENR has surpassed its goal as of Sept. 15, with sowed seedlings at one million, way ahead of the 900,000 target for the year.

“If we continue to plant the remaining seedlings to complete 1.5 million, we will be at 1.63 million, 130,000 (trees) ahead of target,” Mr. Paje said.

Additional funding to sustain the greening program forms part of the P22.8 billion in funding sought by the agency next year, a P1.8-billion increase from the current year.