Conal Holdings

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Conal Holdings, a 40:60 joint venture between Electricity Generating Public Company Limited, Thailand’s largest power producer, and the Alcantara Group, is the proponent of the Zamboanga power station, a 105-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station in Mindanao province, Philippines.

In 2008 it was reported that Conal had reached an agreement with the Sultan Mining and Energy Development Corporation for the supply of coal for the project.[1]

Maasim coal-fired plant to begin construction in 2011

In October 2010, Conal Holdings Corp. Vice President Joseph C. Nocos announced the company will start construction of the $450-million Maasim coal-fired plant in the first quarter of 2011 to plug a "chronic power supply deficit" expected to hit Mindanao by 2014, as well as address an expected rise in the power of electricity due to the privatization of local hydropower plants. Available power capacity in Mindanao stood at 1,331 MW as of Sunday, the Web site of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines showed. At a conservative annual demand growth of 3%, Mr. Nocos said “that shortage of power [in Mindanao] will be felt in 2011 and will likely to happen by 2014” across the island if no new power generation facilities are built. Nocos said the coal-fired power plant, which is staunchly opposed by the local Catholic Church and environmental groups over human health and the environmental concerns, can be developed in three to five years.[2]

According to Nocos, currently the South Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Socoteco) II charges about P6.00 per kilowatt-hour to its consumers in the city, the whole of Sarangani province and parts of South Cotabato province. Mr. Nocos said higher power rates would take a toll on consumers with the privatization of National Power Corporation’s power plants as required by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (Republic Act 9136). Nocos said privatization of the Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants will lead to higher power costs as new power plant investors will have to recover their investment. More than half of Mindanao’s power requirement comes from the hydropower plants, thus consumers in the area depend on lower power rates compared with Luzon and the Visayas.[2]

Secretary Lualhati R. Antonino, chairwoman of the Mindanao Development Authority, said the government has not arrived on a firm decision to sell the hydropower plants to the private sector. She cited the proposal of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry to stop the privatization of the hydropower plants. Once Conal Holdings’ coal-fired power plant goes on stream, consumers in the service area of Socoteco II will enjoy at least a peso reduction in power rates as the company will directly connect to the transmission facilities of the cooperative, Mr. Nocos said.[2]

Public Opposition

On November 21, 2010, a 75-boat flotilla and a human banner formed by around 800 villagers from the town of Maasim in Sarangani province in Mindanao spelled out the words "No To Coal" on the grounds of a local elementary school. The activities were part of a campaign by Maasim People’s Coalition on climate change (MP3C) and Greenpeace International. The flotilla was composed of outrigger-boats of local fishers while the human banner that spelled out "NO TO COAL" was composed of students, activists and residents.[3]

Amalie Conchelle H. Obusan, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace, said collaboration with local groups is part of the campaign to localize the advocacy against the use of coal as industrial fuel: "Greenpeace seeks for 50% renewable energy efficiency in the country by the year 2020," adding it "will ask President [Benigno S. C.] Aquino’s support to achieve this." Fr. Apollo G. Salazar of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a religious group opposing the coal plant, said in his talk at the event that there is a need to augment sources of power in Mindanao but "it must be from a sustainable and clean source, not coal."[3]

The coal-fed plant is said to stabilize the energy grid in Mindanao that currently relies on hydropower, or over 50% as power source. Conal Holdings’ officials claimed on the Sarangani provincial government’s Web site that "the P20-billion facility... is the answer to [a] projected power shortage on the island in 2012." Nerissa B. Tongco, MP3C officer said: "The coal project is part of what is called the holy trinity of development aggression in Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos)." The other two are the Tampakan copper project of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. and a coal-mining project under San Miguel Corp. in Lake Sebu, both in South Cotabato.[3]

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