MANILA - Environmental organizations are opposing a proposed coal-fired power plant in Aborlan, Palawan.
Alexander Ochs, an official of the Wildlife Institute, said the project will harm both people and the environment.
"Coal kills, it is that short," he said in an interview. "It pollutes the air, it pollutes our rivers. It has a very bad impact on the health of the people so from a social perspective, it is not a good source to use."
Ochs said coal is the dirtiest of all energy resources.
"Socially, it's not gonna help the people who currently without access to electricity because they do not have access to coal-powered energy," he said.
He said only the big industry will derive any benefit from the coal energy project. "You put one huge plant in a place and you power whatever industry is in the area. But for people who live in remote areas where there are no power grid lines, it is not the right resource."
He said it is more economically feasible in the country to use alternative sources of energy such as wind, solar, geothermal, or hydro.
"It makes no sense to import coal from elsewhere that pollutes your river that is coming at a very expensive price, every 10 cents out of a dollar," he said.
Ochs is in the country on invitation from former Senator Heherson Alvarez, who is one of the officials in the Climate Change Commission.
"I want to ask the government to work with us," he said. "To sit down and look at what is technically possible, what is socially the best way to develop, what makes the most sense from a pure hardcore and business perspective."
He said clean energy solutions are the best way forward for the country.
UNESCO status in peril
The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines) has warned that Palawan risks losing its UNESCO status as a man and biosphere reserve if the proposed construction of a coal-fired power plant pushes through in the province.
UNESCO has classified Palawan province as a "site of excellence where new and optimal practices to manage nature and human activities are tested and demonstrated."
The UN body is currently reassessing Palawan’s special status. However, the plan to put up a coal plant threatens the viability of the title, WWF-Philippines said in a statement.
"The question is not whether Palawan should develop. The question is how it should develop. Business as usual will no longer cut it. We need to mainstream next practices. Fifty year old formulas, such as fossil fuel dependence, will fall by the wayside,” WWF-Philippines Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said.
The current proposed coal-fired power plant in the province is facing stiff opposition from local communities.
On Monday, Western Philippines University students organized a march to protest the proposed coal plant in Aborlan town.
"We oppose the coal plant because of the negative impacts to health and the environment, particularly to locally declared fish sanctuaries in the area. Hanapbuhay ng mga tao dun ang fishing. The discharge of waste water from the coal plant will cause thermal pollution that is hazardous to the marine ecosystem, especially coral reefs," said Dr. Lita Sopsop, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the Western Philippines University.
The coal plant was originally intended to be put up in Narra town but the developer failed get local LGU endorsement and had to transfer the project to Aborlan.
The price of electricity for the proposed coal power plant has also been questioned by local Palawan NGOs as the price will be much higher than indigenous, cleaner renewable energy projects, WWF-Philippines said. The proposed coal plant will sell electricity at a rate of P9.38/kwh. With VAT, that rate would rise to P10.51/kwh.