Thursday, June 16, 2011

Development Aggression,Second Quarter of 2011,Part IV:Coal Fed Energy

The Aboitiz Coal Fed Saga continues...For those not up to speed on the issue the Aboitiz Power Corporation,or APC,is moving full steam ahead (pun intended haha) with its plans for a huge coal fed energy plant on the border of Davao City and the municipality of Santa Cruz,both in Davao del Sur Province.The plant is a shoe in since local warlord and Vice Mayor of Davao City,Rodrigo"Roddy"Duterte was bribed...I mean convinced by a sound argument...and has ever since been one of the projects most enthusiastic supporters.The big"change"came after Duterte was given his own VIP Junket to the Steag State coal fed plant in the municipality of Villanueva in Misamis Occidental Province.The plant is controlled by Evonic Steag,a subsidiary of the German-based multi-national Evonik Industries.Philippine regulations and laws being what they are,Evonic was in need of a local partner,in this case Aboitiz Power Corporation which owns a healthy 34% stake in the venture.Ergo Aboitiz saw a perfect opportunity to bribe,I mean conduct an informative overnight tour complete with airfare,top accomodations (Mindanao doesn't have a single 5 Star Hotel) and the de riguer gratuity.Not even bothering to try and disguise the cash as a per diem each Councillor was given P6,000 (US130),3 weeks pay for most Filipinos.

The Aboitiz Project will (because it IS now a foregone conclusion unfortunately) involve a 51 hectare plot,17 hectares of which will lie in the Santa Cruz portion.This smaller tract will house a dedicated port to receive imported coal shipments as well as vast warehouses in which to store these huge supplies of coal until they are shipped forward to the 24 hectare portion in Davao City where the actual plant will be erected.The Davao City facility will sit in Toril District's Barangay Binugao.Like their compatriots in the adjoining Barangay Inawayan in Santa Cruz,the barangay government of Binugao were easily swayed into supporting the project.On April 15th,2011,Barangay Binugao's Barangay Council issued a Certificate of No Objection in a unanimous vote.This is very,very interesting because as of mid-February the Barangay Council was almost entirely dead set against it.How do you entirely sway a council in the span of 30 odd days?In Barangay Inawayan the Barangay Council likewise followed suit on April 19th.

Both Barangay Councils were pre-empted by the Santa Cruz Municipal Council who gladly offered their unanimously given approval of the project on March 30th.All the while the Davao City Council has been putting up its best front,acting as if they are actually weighing their options.Of course almost the whole lot of them have firmly made up their minds weeks ago,if not months past.However,at least the City Council won't be unanimously standing behind it.Some Councilors,like Leah Librado,remain vehnemently opposed to the plan.Still,in early March the Council passed the issue on First Reading and did the requisite forwarding to the Council's Committees on Energy,on Environment,and on Commerce and Trade.Each Committee must then hold Public Consultations on the issue with constituencies.

Though not often discussed the Aboitiz Project is far from being the only coal fired plant on the table.Conal Holdings Corporation is working on 2 separate projects on Mindanao.The corporation,owned by the Alcantara Clan,is planning a 100 Megawatt plant in Zamboanga City's Barangay San Ramon in Zamboanga del Norte Province.Located within the city's Freeport Zone which heretofore has been best known for being the home to the island's largest prison is now undergoing both the project's Feasbility Study as well as the requisite EIA,or Environmental Impact Assesment.Though,with Abotiz's experience in Davao City as the template there shouldn't be any difficulties both reports are due to be completed by August of 2011.Worth noting is Conal's plan to construct its own dedicated seaport on site so as to ease importation of coal to the plant.This explains the 4 month window on the EIA.In addition to the usual topographic,hydrographic and geotech surveys they also will have to do an indepth marine impact survey.

Sometime in August,or early September,if both reports make their deadline,Conal will file for its ECC,or Environmental Compliance Certificate.Indeed,Conal sponsored its own junket to the Steag State plant in which The Mayor of Zamboanga City,Celso Lobregat,his entire City Council,Chief Engineer and various department heads all spent what must been an incredibly boring day in October of 2010.In each of these junkets Steag State goes on and on about how there are no health concerns,no potential of damage to the envoronment and so on.To give one an idea about what will be spewing out of those huge smokestacks that will soon be dotting the coasts of our island,this 100 Megawatt Project in Zamboanga City plans to plant 3,750 hectares of trees in surrounding tracts.Great,right?The trees are needed to suck up all that excess,unhealthy carbon emissions.There is no such thing as a"healthy"coal fed energy plant.

There are only degrees of harm and how much these companies and politicians in their pocket plan to spend on minimising this harm.These companies operate on profit margins ergo one cannot expect them to truly put real effort into it.The question noone is really asking is why noone is putting effort into geo-thermal generation.We live on a highly volcanic island.There are already geo-thermal plants operating on the island but only to a very small degree.The Zamboanga City plant aims to break ground in August of 2012 and to go online by August of 2015.

The second Conal project is on the drawing board for the town of Maasim in Sarangani Province.An arrayed plant of 2 to 3 units,each capable of generating 100 Megawatts.Though at present the company has merely obtained its ECC,or Environmental Compliance Certificate,they hope to have the first 100 Megawatt unit online by September,2013.If all goes according to plan the second unit will go on line at the end of 2014.When the first 100 Megawatt output is secured 70 Megawatts will be doled out to Socateco II with the remaining 30 Megawatts being sold to the grid.

Perhaps the biggest plant might be the SMC,or San Miguel Corporation mine mouth coal fed plant to be built on the Daguma Coal Field in the municipality of Lake Sebu's Barangay Ned in South Cotabato Province.Having already bought 3 large coalmines on the field,which stretches into Sultan Kudarat Province:

1) Daguma Agro Minerals Incorporated

2) Bonanza Energy Resources Incorporated (Numbers 1 and 2 are co-owned)

3) Sultan Energy Mining and Development Corporation

SMC hopes to amass a massive 3,000 Megawatt portfolio nationwide within the next 5 years.The planned Lake Sebu plant is far from a sure thing despite SMC having bought up most of the Daguma vein.First,the South Cotabato Provincial Government,admirably,has taken a total oppositional stance to all open pit mining.Going so far as to implement an outright ban on such mines and in doing so sparking a feud with the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) secretary,Jesse Robredo,the Provincial Government isnt budging.Then,TAMASCO,or T'boli Manobo S'daf Claimant Organization,is among several disparate stakeholding groups that are adamantly opposing the proposed plant.TAMASCO is an entity composed of 2 area Lumad tribes (Hilltribes),the T'boli and the Manobo and represents their joint interest on an AD (Ancestral Domain) that directly abuts the SMC tract.AD refers to certain vested land rights afforded to tribes living upon their own ancestral lands.The coal field,collectively 17,000 hectares,could support a 740 Megawatt capacity plant for roughly 25 years so that SMC,or rather its subsidiary SME (San Miguel Energy),could survive without having to turn to outside sources for a good 100 years if the plant tops out at its stated maximum capacity of 200 Megawatts.

TAMASCO is deeply concerned after SME's test pits,in Barangay Ned's Sitio Tafal have pretty much scarred the entire sitio.It goes without saying that South Cotabato has alot on its plot with the world's second largest gold field sitting under the province and that Tampakan Project pressing up against the Provincial Government to try and wrangle an open pit spanning parts of 3 provinces.If more LGUs (Local Government Units,as in towns,cities,and provincial governments) were like the South Cotabato Provincial Government perhaps Mindanao might actually have some hope of of real,sustainable prosperity that betters the lives of all involved.

Finally,on March 2nd,Trans Asia Oil and Energy Development Corporation filed plans to construct a 135 Megawatt coal fed plant in Northeast Mindanao.In their regulatory filing the corporation revealed they are already performing a Pre-Feasability Study and plan to pattern it on a plant currently operating in Batangas Province on Luzon.The Batangas facility,also rated at 135 Megawatts,in the town of Calaca,is currently under construction and primed to go on line in 2014.If the Mindanao facility reaches fruition it will go on line in 2015.It plans to utilise coal from the Semirara Coal Company,owned by the Cosunji Clan.Any shortfall will be offset by importation from Indonesia.

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