DENR Secretary Jose "Lito" Atienza

DENR Secretary Jose Atienza

But DENR Sec. Atienza vows to act on it pronto


By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) assured Ilonggos that no foreign interests can influence its decision relative to the proposed construction of a coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City.


DENR Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza said he has finished his personal assessment of Global Business Power Corp.’s (GBPC) application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the coal-fired power plant proposed at Brgy. Ingore in LaPaz district.


Atienza said it took his office some eight months to decide on the ECC application because “we studied very, very closely all the details and the requirements for the environmental clearance of this project.”


The DENR secretary said his decision “will be on the basis of what is good for us, not on what is being dictated from the outside.”


Ayaw ko nung pinakikialaman tayo ng mga banyaga dito sa anuman ang kailangan natin sa ating bansa. In our country, available ang coal. Tinitingnan natin papano natin magagamit ito sa ating pakinabang, but foreigners are telling us not to use them because it will pollute the world. But I say to them, they are the ones polluting the world, why don’t we look at them rather than them looking at us,” Atienza said, apparently taking a swipe at environmental groups opposing the project.


When asked on when he will act on the application, he said “immediately today.”


“I already heard all the positions. This is the last step in my own personal assessment. I will act on it as soon as I get back to Manila. Talagang strong proponent kayo for the project,” Atienza said when asked if he will approve the ECC.


The DENR chief arrived in Iloilo City Friday for the regional launching of the People’s Hour at the Department of Education Social Hall.


The People’s Hour gives the public the chance to face top DENR officials and air their problems and concerns relative to the agency’s programs and activities. 


Atienza said his office made sure that the process and technology that will be used in the proposed coal-fired power plant will not harm the environment.


“I have to make sure of the data submitted to us. I have to make sure that the process and technology will be an environment-protecting one. I have to make sure that it will be good to the economy. And I have to be doubly sure that it will be good for Iloilo residents. Lahat ng ito nagpapatagal ng desisyon,” he said.


He also cited the economic benefits of the coal-fired power plant in considering the ECC application of GBPC.


“Coal-fired power plants are technologies that have given Europe and America a big advantage in world economy. You may not know it but 500 to 600 power plants in the US are run by coal that’s why their cost of electricity is very cheap,” he said.


Atienza said he also went abroad to study coal-fired power plant technologies, particularly the type being proposed by GBPC.


“I went all the way to Taipei on my own, not on the invitation of anyone, just to make sure that the technology that they are offering here works in Taipei. What I saw was impressive. There is a coal plant in an industrial zone producing microchips. The production of microchips requires a totally pollution-free surrounding. If the coal plant is polluting, all semi-conductor and microchip plants in the surroundings will close down. In short, there is such a thing as a pollution-free coal-fired power plant. If that is the technology that we are going to use in Iloilo, definitely I will be impressed. But if the technology does not pass our judgment, then we will not approve it,” he said.


The DENR secretary said he also heard the side of anti-coal groups who raised concerns on the perceived environmental effects of the project.  


As far as protecting the environment is concerned, we are one with all the advocates for environmental protection and those who are against this project. But as far as the welfare of our people is concerned, the national economy and the welfare of the Iloilo residents are concerned we are going to be on their side all the time. We will consider both sides – environmental protection and welfare of the Iloilo residents who are in bad need of additional power source,” he said.