Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Iloilo City at a Crossroad

Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, who is also President of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), is opposing the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City. Estimated to cost around 150 million dollars, the said power plant will generate 100 megawatts and will be completed in 2010. Earlier, environmental groups like Greenpeace have protested the construction of the power plant claiming that coal is dirty and that it will pollute and endanger the health of the people (read more here). They even filed administrative and criminal charges against Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog and several Councilors for going on an "educational visit" to Taiwan courtesy of the power plant proponent (read here and here).

At present, electricity in Iloilo City is being supplied by the 72-megawatt diesel-fired power plant located in Barangay Ingore, La Paz, Iloilo City. The said plant used to be owned by the Lopezes which later sold it to Mirant. Mirant, which experienced money problems, recently sold the power plant to Global Business Power Corp. and Formosa Heavy Industries Corp. I don't know exactly the reasons why the Lopezes sold their power plant but it seems to me that the power generation business is quite tricky and not as profitable as people would think (at least in Iloilo City). After all, pilferage is rampant and illegal connections quite commonplace and this might have reduced their profits.

According to PECO or Panay Electric Corp., the local power utility supplier, Iloilo City presently consumes more than the 72 megawatts that their power plant supplies. Power consumption at times even peaks at 85 megawatts resulting in periodic brownouts. Increased power consumption is due to the fact that Iloilo City has been developing at an unprecedented rate in the last ten years. Airconditioning is now common in most houses. Malls and call centers not to mention hotels and restaurants have been sprouting like mushrooms all over the city. Aside from the increasing local population, there is also the heavy influx of Koreans (whom I observe love to play computer games).

Even now, several call center firms who want to set up shop in Iloilo City are hesitant to do so because of inadequate power supply. Megaworld Corp., which recently bought the old Manduarriao Airport, wants to develop the 56-hectare property into a mixed residential-commercial complex ala Eastwood Center in Libis, Quezon City. But their plan to build a "city-within-a-city" hinges largely on the construction of the power plant. I am sure many more local businessmen are postponing their plans to expand or set up new establishments because of the current power supply situation.

I believe Iloilo City today is at a crossroads. More than just discussing the health hazards to be posed by the coal power plant, I believe that the issue should be debated on whether Iloilo City should continue its rapid march towards "development" or whether it should stay as is. Do we want to remain as a charming, laid-back provincial city or do we want to become a highly-urbanized city like Mandaue or Lapu-Lapu City? By opposing the power plant, Archbishop Lagdameo seems to be saying that Iloilo City has seen enough development already while Mayor Treñas and other Iloilo City officials are saying that we need to continue the development that our city has been experiencing in the past ten years.

At present, people come to Iloilo City but only temporarily; either to study (it is the region's center of education), to shop for goods (it is the center of retail trade in Western Visayas), to conduct business with government (it is the regional government center) or to attend a convention/see the sights (it has the most number of hotels in the region). If the coal plant pushes thru, it will mean more investments and more investments will mean more jobs. More jobs will mean more people coming to our city attracted by employment opportunities and this means that many of them will settle here PERMANENTLY. Development means that people will enjoy steady incomes but it also has a price: traffic congestion, criminality, squatters, garbage, pollution, etc. - problems which our present city government are already hard put to solve.

Notwithstanding all of that, I still believe that Iloilo City needs that power plant. Managing traffic, criminality, squatters, garbage and pollution is all a matter of good governance. Other cities like Marikina, Naga, Puerto Princesa and Davao (to mention a few) were able to manage development and this has resulted to raising the over-all quality of life of people living in those areas. I don't see why we cannot duplicate their feat here in Iloilo City. I also believe that coal is the most appropriate kind of power for Iloilo City mainly because we have an ample supply discovered in Semirara in nearby Antique province (mining experts claim that the coal deposits in Semirara can fuel a 100MW plant for the next 90 years). Sadly, renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, biogas, etc. is still not commercially feasible. If it were, I would be first to espouse its use. So unless Archbishop Lagdameo and the environmentalists present a feasible alternative to coal, we are left with no choice but to use what is available to us at present.


Anonymous said...

It's very sad that some people are opposing this building a coal plant in our city to solve our power crisis. Wala man sila alternate solution nga igahatag.

Marcos said...

I do agree that Iloilo is at a cross roads. The city has already starting to go past the period of "rising from the ashes", further development is something that is inevitable.

If we are to take efforts in slowing it down then it will just end up in a big mess later on. We need to just embrace change and prepare for it.

Anonymous said...

Please refer to dated 11/14/07, under the topic of planet in peril with the subject of " Coal power plant in China". With this, people in Iloilo could get a n overview what would be the future effect of the coal power plant.

akosistella said...

Actually Oli, the coal deposits in Semirara are of the lowest grade. Its high water content makes it unfavorable for use. (Just ask the Alcantara Group which builds coal plants.) So even if Iloilo builds its coal power plant, the owners will still have to import its coal needs from Indonesia to make the plant operate efficiently. The costs of importation will still be passed on to the consumers. Btw, coal plants are one of the major causes of global warming.

There are cleaner sources of power available in the Phils. such as natural gas. But due to politicking mainly by your Presidentita and the DOE, local producers of gas are unable to get their supply from the source to consumers. Initial investment for a gas-fired power plant may be expensive, but downstream, production will be cheaper.

If your local officials are just too lazy to explore other cleaner sources of energy, then it will be not only your province's loss but the global environment's loss.

Anonymous said...

This power supply in the city has been the problem for sooo many years, every city officials from previous administration has done nothing gargantuan to solve such problem. The city official's " Think tank" should be putting their efforts to solve the existing problem...again this should be done many years back!

And here comes a chinese " Business" firm who entice our city officials about the feasible coal power plant in our city. For years of operation of all those Chinese coal power plant, scientist around the world was getting into conclusion that such process was resulting to hazard to the environment and more important to the people within the scope of vicinity.

Oliver M. Mendoza said...

Thank you for your comments. The coal power plant issue is a very good "idealist vs. realist" topic for discussion. Maybe someone or some school in Iloilo could sponsor a debate (to be aired live by all the local TV and radio stations)so that our people could be better informed on the perils and benefits of the power plant. A referendum could then be held to determine if people want it or not.

geckocub said...

There are actually a lot of alternative solutions that could provide ilonggos with electricity. There are wind turbines and solar panels. Yes it is expensive but if you weigh all the pros and cons the coal fired power plant will have more repercussions as compared to these alternative power sources. Most probably there's politics involved gid eh, thats why local officials are pushing for this, thinking only of how to fatten themselves up with the kickback they'll get but not really thinking about its hazardous effects.

braggito said...

As usual, CBCB is anti development. They would rally againts all the government projects yet they have no alternative program. CBCB is the root cause of poverty in our country because they tolerate irresponsible family planning methods. Sana may makaisip naman to kill these bishops para tumahimik naman at umunlad ang ating bayan.

Anonymous said...

This coal fired power plant can only bring additional problems to Panay.Many chemicals are being emitted from the power plant that could cause many diseases and most especially death among Ilonggos.
Yes, this power plant can be the key to progress in this place but it can also be a key to the increasing number of factors that could bring many Ilonggos' health into danger. How can be a progressed city be called a well developed place if there are many individauls are suffering from the effects of this coal fired power plant?

Anonymous said...

The spin doctors of PPC and PECO are leading us to believe that coal is clean and its the only option. However, if you look closely at the credibility of these two and their track record for breaking promises then you will see that they are trying to fool us again.
When they built the Ingore power plant - they promised jobs and benefits for the host community. Few people are currently employed from within the barangay. I asked an Ingore resident once about what PPC has done for them - he told me to look around and said - "maski basketball court na lang wala gid!"

Oliver M. Mendoza said...

Thank you for your comments. I agree that coal is not the cleanest energy but as I have said, it's the only one available right now to Iloilo City. The Catholic Church should do more than just oppose and present concrete alternatives to coal. If the Church is really that opposed to coal, let them look for a businessman who will be willing to build a clean, renewable energy plant in Iloilo. Or they should probably advocate that Ilonggos should not watch TV too much or moderate their use of aircon, etc. Or they could tell the people that they should reproduce less, as electricity consumption is directly proportional to population growth. The Church cannot just oppose without presenting clear and practicable alternatives.

Anonymous said...

hi! i'd like to have this kind of format in my blogspot too. the comments showing under each post, would you care to share how you did it?

ken said...

I would like to share my insights as a concerned Ilonggo.

First of all, I would like to inform everyone that clean coal does not exist, even in America(they are still developing the technology). Second, I agree that the Iloilo is in a crossroad, but not in a roadblock where development stops. It is true that additional electricity is a key to progress. And progress is not really true here in the Philippines, not even true in Iloilo. Why? It is because of politics, bad politics, and sad to say really bad leadership.

Leaders have really big responsibilities, they even get blames for things the did not do. Why is that so? Because they are leaders, it's their job. To lead, to risk and to be blamed in every decisions they make and their subordinates make.

This Coal-Fired Powerplant issue is not really a hard issue to handle, and we should see by now which leader proves to be deserving. How? I'll give my list of ideas on how to choose a leader in this situation.

Coal plant is dirty, hazardous to health, and is a major cause for global warming.(let's just accept this fact).

If the need for electricity is greater than the costs of lives it can take, then it could be built. And when it is built,

Businessmen become happy, and brgy. Ingore would be greatly burdened with sickness. Environment is jeopardized.

A leader should accept this scenarios before deciding whether to build a coal plant or not.

If a leader decides to build the plant, then the leader should at least: Invest on hospitalizations, medicines, and health care for the future victims. And invest on cleaner and more power producing plants to replace the coal plant in a given time. For example, In 30 years time, enough time to generate funds i hope, we will be build and run a solar plant to replace the coal plant.

It really smart to give and look at futuristic scenarios when leading, and has this been done by our leaders? Have they looked on all the possibilities and consequences of the project?

I value life. Life is something you can't get twice. If our leaders cannot value life, then how can they pay the votes the people had given them to serve them, if they'll just kill them?
Sacrifice anything, leave the lives untouched.

Let us involve ourselves in every issues that come our way. We have every right to do so. The power is always in our hands, in the hands of the people.

Thank you Mr. Oliver Mendoza.

reaganpaul said...

For those who support the construction of the power plant, as well as for those who oppose it, both sides have merits on their arguments. Since the growth of Iloilo City is now on a rapid momentum, it makes perfect sense to have this project right away. For the meantime, this is the most feasible option we have. That's why it's a smart move as well that the government of Iloilo is now inviting power suppliers that use cleaner and "greener" sources of energy to invest their specialities in the province. Once the "greener" options will be fully operational in the near future, reliance for fossil fuel will be lessened. Iloilo, as a province, and even our neighboring provinces, can benefit well when both alternatives become wholly functional in the coming years. It's really having the best of both worlds. :)