Coal debate in Naga: Looking for a middle ground

I accepted the invitation of Gov. Gwen Garcia to cover her trip in South Korea. Basically, the trip is for a tourism conference. But she intends to visit coal fired power plants owned by KEPCO to see for herself how clean or dirty the technology these plants are.

True, KEPCO would try to present their best side. Yet, we should be able to observe more objectively and think about what is applicable to Cebu and Naga.

As a journalist and the one tasked by the University of San Carlos with writing the history of Naga, I find the trip an excellent opportunity for seeing myself CFBC power plants in operation. This is timely in the light of the raging climate change controversy that has made Naga a local battleground in the global fight to avert the warming of the earth.

I am quite acquainted with the anti-coal arguments advanced by my friends within the local environmental movement in calling for an immediate stop to the construction of the KEPCO plants in Naga. On the other hand, I also am privy to the arguments of the other side as well as the sentiments of Naganhons preferring  jobs and development over the prospect of ecological damage.

I talked with Mayor Val Chiong during the city’s second charter day celebration last September 5, 2009 and sensed his desire to explore a middle ground.

Indeed, while we look forward to making moves to avert global warming, we should also respect the sentiments of the local populace. Cebuanos, for example, definitely don’t want to part with the modern conveniences made possible by the supply of reliable and affordable electricity.

I agree that we should be able to find a middle ground. The Korea trip would help me personally to look at the controversy from a broader perspective. Ultimately though, it would be the decision of the people of Naga that should be respected.


9 Replies to “Coal debate in Naga: Looking for a middle ground”

  1. Manoy Anol, suway ko og react diri.

    Unless we can further upgrade our geo-thermal and natural gas sources, we really don’t have any other practical option other than fossil fuel.

    I know of no government program nor legislation that effectively address this concern. We do have bio-fuel as an alternate but unless we make a big investment in terms of policies and infrastructure towards the large-scale use of biodegradable and sustainable alternative power sources, then we are not going anywhere.

    Bio-fuel in the form of ethanol from sugar-cane and palm trees is promising. But the problem with us adopting it in a large-scale is that it requires large tracts of agricultural lands and the ratio of land per gallon is not that promising. Being an archipelago, our vacant tracts of land are in the slopes, which are not suitable for palm and sugar-cane plantations. Plant these on the slopes and we run the risk of landslides because their roots are very shallow.

    I would like to see a hybrid that will produce more per acre than what is current. Perhaps that is one aspect wherein our scientists can work on, thus we don’t have to worry about agricultural land being converted to bio-fuel production, since it will affect food prices.

    For our urban areas, I would like to see our dumpsites running a limited methane-based power plant, at least to power the immediate area.

    Hydro-power and aero power, although the technology is already available, may still be 10-15 years away from becoming a practical option.

    Solar power is being restricted because of the lack of development in how batteries are being developed. Plus the cost of the solar panels are too high and the common-tao would just compare how much he will spend for VECO and how much he needs to invest in solar energy, and we will just simply choose VECO. The common-tao is not being anti-enviroment. The common-tao is simply being practical.

    Nevertheless, solar-energy is still the best IMMEDIATE option to power up our home’s basic electrical needs. Aside from developing better batteries or storage, we need to get the prices down to a more affordable level. Based on what is on the market now, investing in a solar-powered system for an average sized 3 bedroom residence will mean an initial expense equivalent to 15-20 years of current electric power charges based on your friendly neighborhood power provider. Add maintenance costs of the system needs repairs or replacement and you are looking at one hefty sum. We need to find a way to lower the cost.

    One of these days, we may need to take a second look on nuclear power. I know, it’s too “Marcos”, but other countries has been safely operating nuclear-power reactors for several decades. If we can find a place to safely construct one, then why not explore the possibility. BTW, the nuclear-reactor of America’s latest aircraft carrier can produce electricity equivalent to the needs of a small city.

    Someday, I’m gonna walk up close to those windmills in Ilocos and see for myself the possibility of wind-power. It’s also a realistic option for our rural and agricultural areas. To be honest, I would’nt mind having a windmill on top of my house or a roof filled with solar panels if it will lesser expenses and a cleaner environment.


  2. I already visited the windmills in Pagudpud, Ilocos. Impressive ang infra. Pero ang output leaves much to be desired because of the unreliability of the wind’s strength 24/7. To think, the windmills are located along the beach fronting the China sea. The sad part, every time wind power goes down, backup power is provided by the expensive diesel plants kay dali kuno ma-fired up. Di gihapon makatabang to avert climate change. Unya kulang para sa atong needs.


  3. We need to realize that our departure from fossil fuel dependency is not reliant on one single option but of several. We shouldn’t expect solar-power technology to complete replace the diesel or coal powered plants.

    In the short-term, we should look at alternative energy as a supplement. Perhaps a goal of 10% within the next 5-8 years. Within 15 years, we should strive for 25%-30% and 50% in 25-30 years. Expecting a sudden change to alternate sources would only lead to frustration.

    Perhaps nuclear-power technology will make a breakthrough discovery soon, making it safer and more easier to store or recycle radioactive waste.

    The solution is not on one single option but lies in the adoption of several.


  4. I don’t get it. Why does Gwen, a not expert on power generation, get to check a power plant in South Korea?

    It is like instant pyro-teknik king Ayala who debunked all scientific findings of NSA, CIA, Mossad, FBI …

    Bilib talaga ko sa mga FlipPinos …

    And the coin-operated peryodistas looked the other way because they get to ride and tour free …


    1. We did not look the other way bay. Columnists Ricky Poca and Ely Espinosa did not hesitate to ask the hard questions. And Ely asked to take a close look at the huge ash pond beside a coal fired power plant. We indeed went just within two to three meters away from the huge pile of ash. A few meters on the other side from where we stood, several Koreans were busily fishing.

      I did not ask much though. I already believed that coal is the way to go as far as power generation in Cebu within the next 10-15 years pending the building of affordable plants that use renewable energy sources. I focused more on mitigation measures re the harmful emissions and toxic substances in the fly and bed ash. I also noted the strict government oversight and environmental consciousness of ordinary Koreans.

      I suggest that when you have the chance to visit Seoul, spend a day to check out the plants and see if we indeed looked the other way. Then lets compare notes.


  5. I don’t get it at all. Why not use the current technology in drilling oil? It’s cheaper. It’s readily available. The refinery is in placed. Technology on emission is there to be harnessed.

    Why O Why?

    Because we’d rather go hungry than ruin the habitat of the dolphin in Tanon Strait!

    Alternative fuel is expensive!

    Who cares about pollution. Typhoon cleanses us of pollution!


  6. Let us not debate about alternative fuels. 1stly, Filipinos do not have the “it”. We just copy. We import technology.

    So, stop the debate. Let’s wait until America come up with cheaper alterntive … MEANTIME, drill that oil! To hell with the dolphins! We got 96,000,000 mouths to feed!

    WoW! 96 with plenty of zeros considering morality laws in our land. Hmmmmm …. Can anyone columnize this?


  7. Despite MTRCB. Despite being proud Roman Catholics. Despite porns are outlawed. Despite being proud on morality, dignity. Despite how people got incensed on Hayden Kho. Despite furor over sexy billboards …

    … WE GREW TO BE 96,000,000 factory defective Filipinos … Either we are impregnated by other means or we just, you know, that word that starts with letter “F” and ends in “K” with UC in between EVERYDAY DESPITE OF IT ALL.



  8. I AM OUT OF LINE HERE , allow me to comment on Pachico Seares’, Oh, my bad, Atty Pacheco Seares’ you know how they get infuriated forgetting their professional prefixes.

    Bloggers are journalists! What the Philippine Professional Journalists conveniently, intentionally missed is where the bloggers picked-up. Most of bloggers hard-hitting, in-your-face kind of reporting are not even published nor talked about.

    If Philippine Journalists lacked the kukote on Trining Failon (read my DELETED commentaries on how ignorant the Philippine Professional Journalists in how could they monopolize that they are the only people who can “objectively” report?

    There are too many missing pieces in their reports. Plenty of illogical news reporting.

    If professional journalists claim that they only report the facts they might as well fax in their questions. Why the need of foot journalists pounding the dusts when all they cannot even ask a simple logical question.


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