Cebu City Council says no to Ludo’s 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Sawang Calero
Marites Busico, 36, burst into tears as soon as the members of the Cebu City Council decided against endorsing the proposed 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant that Ludo Power Corp. planned to build in Barangay Sawang Calero.
“Karon, makatulog na gyud mi og tarong (Now, we can sleep soundly),” said Busico, a housewife, who has been joining protests against the project, together with other residents of her barangay.
The City Council’s move affirmed the position taken by Busico and about 2,000 other residents of the village who believed there were just too many health risks associated with a coal-fired power plant, especially if one would be built in a densely populated area like Sawang Calero.
The Council’s committee on environment, headed by Councilor Nida Cabrera cited the lack of social acceptability of the coal-fired plant as one of the reasons why it refused to give its nod to the project.
The committee also pointed to the project’s lack of Environmental Impact Assessment Study (EIAS) and the non-conformity of the plant’s site to the city’s zoning ordinance, which disallowed a plant of such nature to be built in a densely populated area.
The committee cited provisions of Cebu City Ordinance No. 1656 or the city’s 1996 Revised Zoning Ordinance, which stated that power plants are allowed only in medium or high intensity industrial (I-2) districts. The proposed plant site, on the other hand, belongs to the low intensity industrial (I-1) district, it noted.
“While exceptions and variances on land uses may be allowed, granting exception to a coal-fired thermal power plant in a densely populated community presents a clear danger to the health of residents and the environment,” the committee said.
Under the 2013-2014 Comprehensive Land Use Plan Guidebook of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, the committee said power plants are allowed to operate in the Industrial-3 (I-3) Zone. But there is no I-3 category under the city’s existing zoning ordinance, it said.
More importantly, environmental impact, according to the committee, plays a central role in determining whether or not a project should get a favorable endorsement from the Council.
“The proposed Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant by Ludo Power Corporation has a generating capacity of 300 MW. Under current guidelines, a power plant capacity that surpasses a rated capacity of 30 MW is considered environmentally critical. Therefore, the proposed Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant by Ludo Corporation with a capacity of 300 MW is an Environmentally Critical Project and poses significant environmental impacts,” read the seven-page committee report.
No discussion were made after the report was rendered and no councilor objected.
But after the committee report was read, Councilor Noel Wenceslao moved to withdraw his and Councilor Richard Osmeña’s pending proposed resolution favorably endorsing the project.
Ludo’s public relations manager Nelson Yuvallos, who was present in yesterday’s Council session, refused to comment on the outcome of their proposal.
During the recess, though, he was seen talking and shaking hands with some of the councilors and with some of the residents who had trooped to the session hall wearing black shirts to signify their opposition to the project.
The anti-coal residents even handed white roses to some of the councilors after Cabrera’s report was taken up.
Sanlakas, one of the groups opposing a coal-fired power plant in Sawang Calero, said Ludo would now have a a difficulty getting an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) because of the City Council’s refusal to endorse the project.
Sanlakas secretary general Aaron Pedrosa told Cebu Daily News by phone that the Council’s action was a victory for the anti-coal movement and the community that fought against it.
Pedrosa, however, said they would continue to be vigilant as the proponent could look for alternative sites for their project.
Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, in an interview, said that while the resolution to endorse the coal plant might have been “killed,” the project proponents could again ask for a new endorsement from the City Council but only if they have complied with the requirements specified by the committee on environment.
Sawang Calero Barangay Captain Ariel Yburan, who had earlier endorsed the project along with his barangay council, told CDN he believed the City Council only deferred endorsing the project.
“It was just that the committee on environment denied the proposal. But from what I know, it was withdrawn so that it can be taken up later. But for us, whatever the decision of the Council will be, we will just follow. We already did our part,” Yburan said.
Yburan said his own home is just right beside the Ludo complex, but he and the other barangay officials believed they would not face any health or safety issue, as they were convinced with the technology and the mitigating mechanisms that Ludo would employ for the P3.8 billion project.
Ludo’s existing plant complex occupies 12.6 hectares, or about half of the 24.8-ha land area of Sawang Calero.
Fr. Rowell Gumalay of the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP), which runs the Little Lamb Center just beside the Ludo complex, said they were thankful to the City Council for listening to their concerns.
MOP priests earlier expressed concern over the health risks that a coal-fired power plant would pose on the over 30 children with special needs who are cared for by the center.
“Throughout the time that the news came to our knowledge, we started to implore God’s guidance to protect our children and our poor neighbors in Sawang Calero.
To me, it was an answered prayer of the cry of the poor against the wails of the mighty, the powerful and the rich. He will never abandon us,” Gumalay told CDN.
“The denial of the Ludo’s power plant proposal is a victory of the voices of the voiceless,” he added.
The Cabrera committee report said the anti-coal petition submitted by residents of Sawang Calero represented a “significant opposition” to the project.
Unlike the Sual Power Plant in Pangasinan, which the Ludo group has cited as model of a safe coal-fired plant operation, the committee noted that Ludo’s site is heavily populated.
“While the proponent commits to adopt a state-of-the-art process in operating the proposed power plant, precaution tells us to err on the side of caution if only to ensure the health and safety of our people and the environment from toxic risks,” the report read.
The committee also noted that the barangay council resolutions endorsing the project that were issued by the four villages surrounding the Ludo facility — Sawang Calero, Duljo Fatima, Pahina San Nicolas and Suba — did not include minutes of the public hearings to signify there was enough consultation with the affected communities.
They also pointed out that Ludo only submitted a public scoping document, the barangay council resolutions endorsing the project and position papers with signatures from residents of the four barangays.
Aside from Cabrera, the report was signed by Councilor Nestor Archival Sr., the vice chairman; and members Councilors Margarita Osmeña and Alvin Dizon.
Councilor Gerardo Carillo, another committee member, was unable to sign the report because he was sick and was absent from the session, but he told CDN by phone yesterday that he had informed his fellow committee members that he supported the report.
The committee, meanwhile, also recommended that the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Central Visayas office and Ludo would be asked to submit reports on the status and environmental compliance of Ludo’s current 10-MW power plant inside its complex.
Mayor Michael Rama, meanwhile, declined to make a stand on the proposed coal-fired power plant.
“I don’t have to make any stand now. I’m a mayor. I will always wait for an ordinance (or resolution). As soon as it will reach my end, then I will have it also legally assessed. If it won’t reach my end, what is there for me (to push or reject)?” Rama told reporters.
In its position paper, Ludo proposed to undertake the project in partnership with TeaM Energy, a Philippine consortium composed of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Marubeni Corp. of Japan, which also established the 1,218-MW Coal Power Plant in Sual, Pangasinan.
The proposed plant would use pulverized coal that would be imported from Indonesia through covered conveyors and would be stored in sealed silos.
Ludo also said nearby barangays would benefit from the project as they would get one centavo per kilowatt-hour, or about P3,000 per hour, P72,000 per day and P26.28 million per year, which they could use for livelihood, infrastructure and other development projects.
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