CA junks environment case vs Subic coal-fired power plant project

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07:04 PM February 7th, 2013

By: Amy R. Remo, February 7th, 2013 07:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals has dismissed the writ of kalikasan case slapped against the planned 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant of Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy), effectively allowing the power firm to finally push through with the $1.28-billion project.

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Celia Librea-Leagogo, paves the way for RP Energy to finally start the construction of this crucial baseload facility within the Subic Bay Freeport, and be able to start generating additional power for the Luzon grid by 2016.

In a statement, RP Energy said the court’s 15th division issued the 101-page decision, which noted that the petitioners (or those who are against the power project) “failed to prove that their right to a balanced and healthful ecology was violated or threatened with violation and that any damage would affect the lives of locals in two or more cities or provinces.”

To recall, the case was filed before the Supreme Court on July 20, 2012 by Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino and Olongapo City-based environmental group No-To-Coal. Respondents included RP Energy, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). The case was later remanded to the Court of Appeals which held hearings from November 5 to Dec. 14, 2012.

The RP Energy, in a statement, said the Court of Appeals junked the petitioners’ application for an environmental protection order for failing to show that the matter was of extreme urgency and petitioners would suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury.

It further reasoned that RP Energy’s proposed power plant project has not yet been constructed and proof has not been show that its CFB (circulating fluidized bed) technology would cause environmental damage.

In its decision, the CA said the petitioners presented only three witnesses, none of whom could be called “experts” on environmental matters, whereas respondent RP Energy presented several witnesses to back up the power plant’s CFB technology.

“We presented overwhelming evidence that the power plant project will not cause any adverse environmental impact.  It will utilize state-of the-art technology and RP Energy took great care in complying with all the requirements for the issuance and amendments of the ECC as required by the DENR”, explained lawyer George Aquino of the ACCRA Law Office, counsel for RP Energy.

The decision of the appellate court likewise upheld the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) power to amend environmental compliance certificates (ECC) based on DENR Administrative Order No. 2003-30. The 600-MW power project currently has an amended ECC.

The court explained that the DENR has been given the authority and duty to grant or deny ECCs as the primary government agency responsible for the management of the environment.

RP Energy noted that this was the first Writ of Kalikasan case against a power project and will most likely be a precedent for similar cases in the future. It quoted a “power industry insider” as saying that the decision is a relief for proponents of other planned power projects that were being threatened with similar cases.

It added that the decision also “helps ensure that the government and private sector will be able to address the growing need for a stable, reliable and competitively-priced supply of power.”

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