Consunji firm sparks outrage in Palawan: Residents and organizations condemn disregard for coal-free island

DMCI Power Corp. is facing severe backlash from residents, environmental groups, and civic organizations in Palawan who are vehemently condemning the company for what they perceive as a flagrant disrespect towards their rights and the collective aspiration to maintain their island free from the use of coal—the most environmentally harmful of all fossil fuels.

The company is owned by the Consunji family who also owns Semirara Mining and Power Corp., which derives its revenues from coal production and sales, as well as the construction of power plants designed to utilize their own coal resources.

In September 2020, the residents and environmentalists obtained a temporary environmental protection order from the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court to stop DMCI from constructing and operating a 15-megawatt coal fired power plant in Narra, Palawan.

The Power for People Coalition (P4P), in a statement, said “it makes no sense for any company to fire up or any local government to support a new-coal fired power plant”, especially in light of the Department of Energy’s moratorium on new coal.

This moratorium was implemented to facilitate the transition towards a more secure and stable power system. As early as 2013, residents of Palawan have been exploring ways to develop renewable energy on the island.

P4P warned that DMCI could face legal troubles due its failure to comply with environmental certification commitments.

“Should DMCI insist in operating its power plant with imported coal, it would be exposing consumers-be it local consumers or those in the nationally grid paying off-grid subsidies—to extremely volatile and increasingly costly electricity and placing them at the mercy of the global market. Should it source its coal from its equally destructive and opposed coal mine in Semirara, it will be using fuel which is more toxic than imported supply, thus exposing communities to even more potent pollution,” P4P said.

Environmentalists said DMCI plans to commence operations of its 15 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Barangay Bato-Bato in Narra, Palawan this month.

Apart from the anticipated pollution generated by the plant itself, residents and environmental advocates fear the potential occurrence of a catastrophic event similar to the oil spill incident in Mindoro. They believe that the increased maritime traffic for coal supply delivery poses a heightened risk.

“This increases the risks of hazardous situations like the oil spill that happened off the coast of Oriental Mindoro—a disaster that reportedly reached even the waters of Palawan. Coastal communities in impacted areas now suffer disrupted livelihood, are exposed to health risks, and face bleak futures,” P4P said.

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