By Francis Allan L. Angelo

NEW power plants must be constructed in Panay to address the projected power shortage in Visayas.

This was the stand of Senator Francis Escudero even as he urged for the completion of the coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City.

Citing the Power Development Plan of the government, Escudero said Visayas region will require an additional 2,283 megawatts in the next five years on top of the current power demand of 967MW.

Escudero said the forecast might not be met as only two major power plants are being constructed in Visayas in the next two years.

The proposed plants are in Toledo City, Cebu with a 436MW capacity and the 164MW coal-fired power plant in Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz, Iloilo City.

“These plants can only provide a combined 601MW, leaving a power deficit of 715MW,” Escudero said.

The senator from Sorsogon said Iloilo City and the rest of Panay needs energy to power sunshine sectors such as tourism and information communication technology.

“It is important for the coal plant to be established in Iloilo because you need that,” he added.

As regards the perceived pollution from power plants, Escudero said available clean-coal technologies that conform to national and international emission standards can be used to allay fears of sectors opposing the plant.

“This clean-coal technology must pass the emission standards of the Clean Air Act of 1999 which was based on EU standards. The EU standards are even stricter than the standards used by the US Environmental Projection Agency,” Escudero said.

Environmentalists said coal-fired power plants contribute to greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and the so-called global warming.

But Escudero said the Philippines’ contribution to carbon dioxide emission is only 0.29%.

“Our carbon dioxide emission is way lower than that of the US which contributes 29% and China with 28%. And 60% of the 0.29% that we contribute to carbon dioxide emission comes from vehicles, not stationary sources such as power plants,” Escudero said.

The senator said there must be balance between environmental protection and embracing additional power sources.

“We don’t need to choose between the two. What we need is to strike a balance between our need for more energy and protecting the environment,” he added.