Quezon residents ask DENR to declare ECC of coal power plant as expired

Quezon residents, led by members of the Catholic Church and cause-oriented groups, on Wednesday wrote to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) seeking to have the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of the Meralco-owned Atimonan One Energy, Inc.’s (A1E) 2×600 megawatt (MW) Coal-Fired Power Plant in Atimonan, Quezon, as expired.

The letter was filed on behalf of Rev. Fr. Warren Puno, Monsignor Emmanuel Ma. Villareal, Mr. Reynaldo Upalda, Quezon for Environment, Atimonan Power to the People, Kaakbay-Quezon, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Inc., Sanlakas, and Center for Energy, Environment and Development Incorporated (CEED), stakeholders who have opposed the construction of the plant for the past five years.

“For the past five years, the residents of Quezon and green groups have zealously opposed all attempts by Meralco to build a new power plant to poison the communities here. These oppositions have effectively delayed the implementation of the project. Given the five-year effectivity period of ECCs, the DENR should now declare the ECC of the power plant expired,” said Avril De Torres, legal counsel of the petitioners and head of Research, Policy, and Law Program of CEED.

ECCs have a validity period of five years, starting from the date of issue, which expires unless the project has been implemented.

“From A1E’s own workplans, the plant should be operational by now.  The continuing resistance of the affected communities of Quezon has delayed A1E’s targets despite many attempts to railroad the coal plant’s construction. A delay of more than 5 years delay implicate changes of the project’s baselines. Are environmental, social, economic considerations 5 years ago still true? This should prod the revocation of A1E’s ECC. The law is the law – the ECC should no longer be valid,” said Aaron Pedrosa, legal counsel of the petitioners and Secretary-General of Sanlakas.

The DENR issued ECC-CO-1412-0029 to A1E on October 13, 2015.

“… the five (5)-year period is not merely a procedural matter but rather, a substantial consideration in ensuring that environmental impacts are properly identified, assessed, and mitigated. After the lapse of five years without implementation, it is reasonable to assume that there will be significant changes in the baseline characteristics that would render the impact assessment and mitigation measures in the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) no longer appropriate,” said the letter sent to the DENR.

Should A1E pursue an extension or re-application for an ECC, residents urged the DENR to consider the best interest of host community members and protection of the local environment.

“Patuloy ang pagtutol namin sa proyektong ito na alam naming sobra ang magiging epekto sa mga mamamayan at kalikasan dito sa Quezon. Kasalukuyan tayong humaharap sa krisis sa klima, at usapin ito ng buhay at kamatayan. Nananawagan kami sa DENR na pag-aralan pa at ipatigil ang pagpapatayo ng planta ng coal sa Atimonan,” said Fr. Warren Puno, Director of the Ministry of Ecology of the Diocese of Lucena.

No coal power plant has been built in the country since 2018 due to strenuous legal and political opposition from affected communities and advocates of sustainable development, mirroring a trend among advanced countries and top international financial institutions to avoid further investments in coal.

“There is no future in coal – not for humanity, not for the government, and not even for its proponents. We hope that the case of the Atimonan coal project would serve as a warning to those who insist on dirty energy even as cleaner and more affordable renewable sources are available,” said de Torres.