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KIDS AT RISK

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita April 24,2016 - 11:01 PM

PROPOSED COAL PLANT. The Ludo Corp. property in Barangay Sawang Calero, the site of the proposed  coal-fired thermal power plant, is separated by a mere concrete wall from the community. (CDN PHOTO/FERDINAND EDRALIN)

PROPOSED COAL PLANT. The Ludo Corp. property in Barangay Sawang Calero, the site of the proposed coal-fired thermal power plant, is separated by a mere concrete wall from the community. (CDN PHOTO/FERDINAND EDRALIN)

Priests worried that only a wall separates  kids with special needs from proposed Ludo coal plant

On most afternoons, more than 30 children with special ailments and special needs take their nap inside cribs at the Little Lamb Center in Barangay Sawang Calero in Cebu City.

The facility, run by the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP), is home to abandoned children who have cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus or are blind and are being taken care of by priests and brothers of the order.

It is located right beside the site  where Ludo Power Corp. proposes to build a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant. The two facilities are separated by a 30-foot high common wall made of concrete and barbed wire. On the other side, however, the Ludo plant towers over the wall.

The Missionaries of the Poor submitted a position paper to the Cebu City Council opposing the proposed coal-fired power plant, citing health risks, not just of the children housed in the facility but of the community itself.

“We are dealing with lives and the future of our children and people and the generation to come. Health-wise, it has a lot of negative consequences no matter how highly technologically-advanced it can be,” said Fr. Rowell Gumalay, MOP Mission Superior said.

HAZARDS

Gumalay cited the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which contends that sulfur dioxide promotes heart disease and asthma, while nitrogen oxides destroy lung tissue.

He said other hazardous by-products produced by coal-burning plants like arsenic, chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, zinc, radionuclides and particulate matters.

“Each type of coal produces different levels of these pollutants, all of which negatively impact both the environment and health. We can be guided again by the words of Pope Francis, “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” he said in his position paper.

A Greenpeace study said coal is a major public health hazard. Each stage of the coal life cycle – mining, transportation, washing, combustion and disposing of post-combustion wastes – carries health risks that lead to lung, heart and brain diseases, as well as work-related injuries. Burning coal affects the environment, human health and wildlife, and is a major contributor to climate change.

Fr. Gumalay said, “Our complex concern is both the environment and the social community. We are dealing with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people not only in the five barangays but also the entire population of our beloved City of Cebu.”

The Missionaries of the Poor has actively joined residents of the barangay in trying to convince the Cebu City Council to disapprove the P3.8-billion coal plant project of Ludo Power Corporation.

Fr. Gumalay said there is much more to consider in approving the project, one of which is that the area where the project is set to rise, lies in the heart of a community with so many houses surrounding the coal plant.

Just a short distance away, is the Sawang Calero Elementary School. Hundreds of houses, mostly made of light materials have also mushroomed around the Ludo plant over the years. There are more than 7,000 registered voters in Barangay Sawang Calero.

Rowelyn Abadia, 24, has lived  beside the Ludo plant since she was born. She, too, has been actively involved in the protests against the project.

“Bisag unsaon pa nilag ingon nga dili makadaot, naa man gyud nay aso nga manggawas ana (No matter how much they say that it isn’t hazardous, there will always be smoke coming from the plant),” she told CDN expressing her anxiety over the project despite efforts by officials of Ludo to make the people understand the merits of the project.

LUDO

Officials of LDC have been urging the City Council to favorably endorse their proposed project.

Ludo Public Relations Manager Nelson Yuvallos said they’ve been conducting their own sorties with residents trying to explain their measures to mitigate the environmental effects of the plant.

“We have been accommodating their requests. We agreed to conduct a plebiscite as suggested by the residents during the public hearing. And now, they’re saying they don’t want to push through with it again and that they just want to wait for the council’s decision on the project,” Yuvallos told CDN.

A stakeholders’ meeting was hosted by the city council’s committee on environment last Friday where they invited officials from Ludo and the residents to get their sentiments on the project.

During the meeting, Yuvallos said the residents opposing the project no longer wanted a plebiscite or referendum.

“We’re really confused already. We’ve been trying to do what they want,” he said.

For now, they have agreed to wait for the report of the committee on environment, headed by Councilor Nida Cabrera, as to the fate of the project.

Meanwhile, the Cebu City Zoning Board (CCZB) is yet to give an official statement on the project.

“We are an independent body from that of the city council. So we will just wait before issuing a statement,” said CCZB Head Edmund Samson saying that they haven’t received any application from Ludo.

Yuvallos also said they would need to ask for a variance permit from the CCZB before they can push through with the project considering the changes in the area.

MOP

The MOP facility in Sawang Calero has been in existence for 11 years. As it is home to neglected special children, the facility is also open to the immediate community  and children can go inside to play and grown-ups often join the priests and brothers in fellowship activities.

Gumalay said the children in Little Lamb Center have touched many people from different walks of life. There have been many visitors to the Center, from France, the Netherlands, USA  and other parts of the world who came to do volunteer work; feeding them, bathing and caring for the children.

“With these beautiful pictures in mind… it will vanish in the near future if we allow or approve the construction of a 2x150MW coal-fired power plant in Sawang Calero. MOP is just a very small picture of the bigger picture which is our common home – Planet Earth,” Gumalay said.

Keeshia Salazar, 23, who has been leading the residents in opposing the project told CDN that more than anything else, it’s the anxiety of the residents that needs to be addressed.

“It’s really in the heart of the community. They would say that the smoke that will come out of the coal plant will be white. But does color indicate toxicity? They themselves admitted that it can’t have zero emission. By that fact alone, the people really stand to be prejudiced by it,” she said.

Fr. Gumalay also pleaded, “On behalf of the children, our generation and the next to come, may they have a better healthy life not filled with sickness; where there is laughter and not tears; where there are clean surroundings not polluted to enjoy their home. I say, we say by right and by choice “No” to Coal thermal Power in Sawang Calero.”

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu City, coal, electricity, energy, Ludo, power, Power Plant

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