• Court blocks P56-M coal power plant in Zambales

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    THE Court of Appeals invalidated the Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by the Department of Natural Resources (DENR), including two consecutive amendments issued in connection with the petition filed by several activist party-list groups against the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, the Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy), arising from the plans to build a P56-billion 600-megawatt power plant.

    In an eight-page Resolution of the Court’s 15th Division, it denied the privilege of the writ of kalikasan and the application for an environmental protection order, and junked the motion for reconsideration filed by SBMA, DENR and the private corporations for lack of merit.

    Associate Justice Celia Librea-Leagogo wrote the ruling with Associate Justices Franchito Diamante and Melchor Quirino Sadang concurring.

    “Lest it be glossed over by the parties, the privilege of the writ of kalikasan and the application for an environmental protection order were denied in the instant case,” the ruling avers.

    “However, the ECC Ref. Code 0804-011-4021 dated 22 December 2008, as well as its first amendment dated 08 July 2010 and second amendment dated 26 May 2011 issued in favor of respondent RP Energy, and the Lease and Development Agreement dated 08 June 2010 entered into by respondents SBMA and RP Energy were all declared invalid due to various defects and non compliance with legal procedures / requirements concerned, “ it was pointed out.

    With this, the Court argued that “the ball is in the court of the respondents concerned, so to speak, to immediately take the appropriate measures directed towards their faithful compliance with all the legal procedures/requirements, as well as the rectification of the said various defects.”

    In an earlier decision, the Court threw out petitioners Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño and several others’ “ prayer to declare the nullity of Section 8.3 of the DENR Administrative Order No. 2003-30 for being ultra vires[.]”

    Declared invalid were: (1) the Environmental Compliance Certificate . . . dated 22 December 2008 issued is favor of Redondo . . . by former Secretary Jose Atienza Jr. of the DENR; (2) the ECC first amendment dated 08 July 2010 and ECC second amendment dated 26 May 2011, both issued in favor of Redondo . . . by OIC Director Atty. Juan Miguel Cuna of DENR, Environmental Management Bureau; (3) the Lease and Development Agreement dated 08 June 2010 entered into by respondents Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Redondo . . . involving a parcel of land consisting of 380,004.456 square meters.

    RP Energy is a consortium of Taiwan Cogen, Meralco and Aboitiz Power.

    The petition for the writ of kalikasan was originally filed with the Supreme Court by the residents of Olongapo City, the Subic Bay Chamber for Health and Environmental Conservation, the No to Coal-Central Luzon Alliance together with the activist party-list groups Bayan Muna, Kabataan, Gabriela, Anakpawis, and Kalikasan.

    Heeding the cry of the residents, Olongapo Vice Mayor Rolen Paulino, city councilors and the local government units in the area have long been rejecting the project. They even passed several resolutions condemning it.

    The petitioners claimed that a temporary environmental protection order should be issued against the planned establishment of a coal-fired power plant in Subic Bay Freeport Zone, adding that the construction of the plant should be stopped as it poses health risks to residents of the provinces of Zambales and Bataan.

    They argued that the project violates the constitutional rights of residents to a balanced and healthful ecology.

    Acting on the petition, the High Tribunal issued a writ of kalikasan against the respondents but referred the case to the appeals court for hearing, reception of evidence and judgment.

    In its ruling, the appellate court said that “it is undisputed that RP Energy’s power plant project has not yet been constructed.”

    “Petitioners failed to prove their allegations that the construction and operation of RP Energy’s power plant using the CFB technology will cause environmental damage of such magnitude as will adversely affect the residents of the provinces of Bataan and Zambales, particularly the municipalities of Subic, Zambales, Morong and Hermosa, Bataan and the city of Olongapo, as well as the ecological balance of the area; thermal pollution of coastal waters; air pollution due to dust and combustion gases; water pollution from toxic coal combustion waste; and acid deposition to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.”

    In fact, the Court noted that “petitioners admitted during the preliminary conference that, at present, there is no environmental damage yet.”

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