The Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) expressed concerns over the exemption of Aboitiz Power’s Therma Visayas, Inc. expansion in Toledo, Cebu from the coal moratorium.
The group emphasized the need for transparency and thorough examination of the potential impacts on communities, the environment, and consumers.
Gerry Arances, Executive Director of CEED, urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to clarify why the project was granted an exception, especially since Aboitiz-TVI only announced tentative plans last year.
“DOE needs to explain why the project was exempted in the first place. The moratorium does have the unfortunate loophole of allowing expansion projects, but only if they had already been firmly planned at the time the moratorium was issued – and Aboitiz-TVI announced tentative plans only last year,” he said.
He stressed the importance of thorough permitting processes, asserting that the energy department and other government agencies should not simply approve additional coal without proper scrutiny.
He said the planned expansion, nearly doubling its current 340 MW capacity, raises concerns about the adequacy of previous environmental and socio-economic assessments to comprehend the impacts of this growth.
CEED drew attention to the hazardous impact of air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Arances said the “high concentrations of coal-produced pollutants including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide are known to contribute to premature deaths, illnesses, and environmental degradation.”
“The multiplicity of coal or other pollution sources in one location also exacerbates these impacts – and it’s no secret that there are already five operating coal power plants in Cebu. Communities will bear the brunt of impacts for any neglect on this end,” he added.
The think tank questioned the assumption that the expansion would address power supply challenges in Cebu, stating that the approval of new coal capacities contradicts the objectives of the DOE coal moratorium.
Arances argued, “Supporters of coal expansion say that the project will help keep Cebu from suffering a scenario similar to the days-long blackout in Panay earlier this year. They fail to mention that coal plant outages are a primary cause of that blackout.”