Residents of Barangay Sawang Calero in Cebu City were surprised over the sudden revival of the Ludo coal-fired power plant after the project was rejected by the previous members of the Cebu City Council last year.
They trooped to the gate of the Ludo property, which is the proposed site for the power plant, to express their opposition to the project.
And with the Cebu City Council’s recent endorsement of the project, the residents, together with representatives from different environment and civil society groups, staged a protest yesterday morning.
“Much to our surprise, the issue has resurfaced. I will assert my personal experience, we were not consulted. This project is being forced upon us again,” said Keeshia Salazar, a resident of the barangay.
She was also among those who actively lobbied against the project before the city council last year.
The Cebuanos Against Coal, which is a gathering of at least 10 organized citizens groups, faith-based organizations and environment advocates urged the officials of Cebu City to instead look at renewable sources of energy instead of coal.
During its regular session last Tuesday, the city council decided, voting 10-4 to endorse Ludo’s project to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned government agencies.
The city council also adopted a Cebu City Zoning Board resolution which said it is “not adverse” to granting a variance to the project from Industrial 1 to Industrial 2. The variance is needed because coal plants are only allowed in Industrial 2 districts. But the proposed site, a densely populated area, is considered an Industrial 1 district.
Based on the 2015 Census, there are over 8,200 people in Sawang Calero. The neighboring barangays of Suba, Pasil, Ermita and Duljo-Fatima have a combined population of nearly 45,700 people.
In a press conference held at the Little Lamb Center, a shelter housing around 40 children with special needs located right beside the proposed project site, the group said that coal is dirty, costly, and deadly.
“It is time to break free from coal and other carbon-intensive energy sources. Let us invest in renewable energy. To our elected officials, you have the responsibility to refuse this proposed 300MW coal-fired power project,” a statement read by Kenny Silud, a barangay resident.
“The solution and technology is available for clean energy that is good for the climate and for public health and which creates green jobs and economic opportunities for our people,” the statement further read.
While sold cheaply, the group also said that the impact of coal on the health of people and the environment, agriculture and marine life “comes with an expensive price” that is paid for by the common people.
The Cebuanos Against Coal is composed of Sawang Calero residents and several cause-oriented groups.
At least 80 residents and anti-coal groups joined the protest, chanting “No to coal.”
According to Catherine Ruiz of Kaabag sa Sugbo Foundation, they want the city council to clarify their endorsement of the project last Tuesday.
She wrote a letter to Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, the council’s presiding officer, which stated that the council should explain why it changed its stand considering that the zoning board’s resolution only said it is “not adverse” to granting the variance. She said the council “misrepresented” the zoning board by actually endorsing the project and granting it a variance.
Sought for comment about the protest, Councilor Jose Daluz III explained that there will still be public hearings where all stakeholders can air their side on the project. Daluz, who is also a member of the zoning board, clarified that the variance has not yet been granted .
Daluz, who was the one who pushed for the council’s endorsement of the project, said the DENR will still hold a public hearing when Ludo applies for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the project and another hearing with the city government when Ludo applies for the variance.
“We should have an open mind about the P27 billion investment coming in. Coal as a power source is used by all countries. Australia sources 92 percent of their energy from coal; China and US at 70 percent,” he said.
“We should find ways to meet the demand of both sides. The need for more energy vis-a-vis the supposed environmental and health hazards it poses. Even Japan now is returning to coal as a source,” he added.
During yesterday’s press conference, representatives from the religious sector also voiced their opposition to the project.
Fr. Rowell Gumalay of the Missionaries of the Poor said he is worried that the project will affect the health of the children with special needs whom they are caring for .
On the other hand, Teody Navea of Sanlakas and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, claimed that since April until December last year when the coal project was reintroduced, Ludo has been doing “groundwork” in the barangays to ensure the project.
“They (Ludo) invested in the (May 2016) elections. After the elections, there were already a lot of people who become supportive of the project,” he said.
Carolina Borlasa, another resident of Sawang Calero, said some barangay officials have been giving money to residents to convince them to support the project. She said they didn’t receive the money since they are really against the project.