Coal power plant for Palawan mulled

Posted on May 29, 2014

PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. C. Aquino III prefers coal over a diesel power plant in Palawan, but said the government is still open to discussion.

In a chance interview with reporters, Mr. Aquino said coal and diesel power plants are the most suitable sources of energy in the province.

“So far, the really reliable sources of energy for Palawan is coal or diesel,” he said, although noting that diesel -- or fuel oil, is less environmental friendly than coal.

The President explained that another alternative -- solar energy -- will not be enough because it is dependent on “prevailing weather conditions”, while he noted he was unsure of the hydroelectric capacity of the province.

Mr. Aquino, citing the government’s projected 10 million tourists arrivals by 2016, noted that additional power-generating sources are needed to cater to the influx of tourists and industries particularly in Palawan, one of the country’s premier destinations.

“It’s back to the question of: ‘Do we want power or not?’ We need what we call base load plants,” he said when asked if Palawan could be “spared” from the planned construction of a coal-fired power plant.

Base load power plants are crucial sources of energy that are able to continuously supply electricity throughout the year. Coal-fired plants are among the usual base load power sources.

Palawan is not connected to the main power transmission grid and thus, the government provides since “nobody wants to come in to provide power.”

SPUG -- or Small Power Utilities Group under the National Power Corp. -- undertakes the electrification of missionary areas, which are usually the farthest, smallest and remotest places and islands in the country.

The President recalled that half of the budget allotted for SPUG areas is spent to supply power to Palawan and the Mindoro provinces. Naturally, Mr. Aquino said, significant budget will be saved if both provinces will be removed from SPUG.

Meanwhile, Mr. Aquino assured the government is willing to sit down with the people of Palawan to discuss the issue on the construction of a power plant in the province.

“We don’t impose, we will conduct a dialogue with you and with the local community but it has to be a common decision based on available facts,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Navy anniversary in Palawan held on Tuesday.

The President emphasized that the opinion of local residents will matter in deciding what kind of power plant will be constructed in their area.

Local residents have been opposing the proposal to construct the 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant to be built by DMCI Power Corp. in Aborlan, Palawan citing possible harmful effects of the power plant construction on their health and on the environment of the province. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin