Green activists protest against coal-fired power plant project in Atimonan Quezon

Residents from Atimonan, power consumers, together with the Power for People Coalition gather at the Atimonan One Energy Head Office in Ortigas Avenue in Pasig City on July 5, 2018, to condemn the ongoing illegal construction of Atimonan One Energy Coal Plant in Quezon.

Residents, power consumers and members of the Power for People Coalition held a rally today to protest against the alleged illegal construction of the Atimonan One Energy Coal Plant in Atimonan, a first class municipality in Quezon Province.

The protesters gathered near the Atimonan One Energy (A1E) head office building along Ortigas Avenue, occupying the highway to demonstrate against the ongoing development of the new coal plant, which they warn will pollute local air and water, making residents sick and damaging their livelihoods.

“We continue to stand against the destruction of our province, with the construction of this project, which not only threatens to harm the beauty of our province but the welfare of its citizens,” said Monsignor Noel Villareal of Our Lady of Angels Parish in Atimonan, Quezon.

“We are protesting the continued construction of the coal-fired power plant’s facilities despite its Power Supply Agreement (PSA) still pending and its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) still being contested by the host communities,” said Erwin Puhawan of the Power for People (P4P) Coalition.

“For the longest time, the interests of consumers and host communities of energy projects have been set aside,” he said. “They deserve better. They deserve clean, safe, affordable electricity. But what A1E is offering is exactly the opposite.”

“A1E failed the most basic test in securing the welfare of its host community by producing a deceptive ECC,” said Vin Buenaagua of Sanlakas. “While public consultations were held, the host community was of the understanding that it was for a natural gas plant, not a coal power plant: two distinct projects with distinct effects on the surrounding population.”

“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) cannot simply allow the construction of this project to continue with such a fatal flaw,” said Buenaagua. “Where is the Duterte administration’s supposed care for the coasts and coastal communities? It seems too eager to bend for large companies.”

The 1,200 MW Atimonan power station is one of the seven contested PSAs pending in the ERC, which green activists have been trying to block allegedly for being highly irregular, costly and harmful to the environment and the respective host communities.

“We really cannot expect a PSA between A1E and Meralco to serve the best interests of consumers,” said Atty. Avril De Torres of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development. “Firstly, A1E is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Meralco PowerGen Corporation (MGen), the power generation arm of Meralco. Secondly, their PSA skipped competitive selection process (CSP), which ensures that consumers will pay electricity at least cost.”

“This PSA has a term of 20 years, which means that consumers will be stuck paying for a higher cost of electricity from coal for at least 20 years. It also prevents potential alternatives, particularly renewable energy, from stepping in and providing cheaper electricity to citizens,” De Torres said.

“Having been stranded for almost two years now and with the recent Ombudsman suspension of the four ERC Commissioners, ERC under the leadership of Chairperson Agnes Devanadera is now under the public scrutiny, for being partial to Meralco and AIE,” said Ian Rivera of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).

“Therefore, the ongoing construction of the plant in Atimonan, Quezon Province is suspicious and alarming. But this cannot be hidden from the plain sight of the investors. Considering its cost to the consumers, residents of Atimonan, and the environment, there is no reason for the ERC to approve this agreement. And considering the damage they already caused and the rules they already broke, there is no reason for this construction to continue,” he said.

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