(PNA file photo)

MANILA – Masbate City Mayor Rowena Tuason on Friday expressed concerns over the operation of the coal-fired power plant owned by DMCI in their area that was immediately acted upon by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Nung nag operate sila ng November, pakiramdam namin dito, may dumating na C130 (plane) sa sobrang lakas at ingay nung nag-start yung coal-fired power plant. Ilang araw simula nun may heavy smoke naman na in-emit nung coal-fired power plant na ito (When they operated in November, we felt like a C130 plane landed because of very strong noise from the coal-fired power plant. Several days after that, they started emitting heavy smoke),” Tuason said during the Network Briefing News program over Radyo Pilipinas as she relayed her concerns to DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.

After the incident, she said that the locals started seeing oil spill coming from the plant located very near the Tugbo river.

Another fear of the residents, Tuason said, is that the water pollution that may be caused by the coal-fired power plant may eventually reach, damage, and eventually destroy their marine sanctuary, which is merely 1.6 kilometers away from the plant.

The Buntod reef marine sanctuary received the Best Marine Protected Area Award in 2019 and the city government is trying its best to really protect the area.

“Here comes now a coal-fired power plant that continuously emits substances at alam naman natin na kahit pasado siya sa Clean Air Act 'yung standards niya, (naglalabas) pa rin siya pakonti-konting smoke emissions (and even if we know that it is compliant with standards of the Clean Air Act, it still has smoke emissions from time to time),” said Tuason.

She explained that small emissions of the coal-fired power plant which occur on a daily basis will eventually accumulate and may pollute the air and sea and permanently damage the rich natural resources of the province.

Para sa akin yung pwede nilang magawa dito sa aming environment lalo na yung sa gilid ng dagat, magiging irreversible ito pagdating ng araw (For me, the damage which they may cause the environment, especially to the seas, may become irreversible in the future),” said Tuason.

Tuason appealed to the DMCI to try to shift using renewable energy instead of coal.

Antiporda said that based on the initial investigation received by the DENR, the company conducted only a start-up test in November and that they used diesel that time and not coal.

But upon receiving complaints, the department issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to DMCI, as it failed to inform the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of their activity.

Antiporda said a company must always comply with the standards of the Clean Air Act, but foremost in their priority is the safety and health of the people.

“But rest assured that this thing will not happen again and we will closely monitor itong kanilang mga aksyon especially on this power plant kasi hindi ho natin maaaring payagan na dahil sa kuryente ay isasakripisyo po natin ang ating kalikasan (We will not allow the activities of this power plant because we cannot sacrifice our natural resources in exchange for electricity generation). If ever we find out na talagang merong (that there is) health risk yan, na talagang blatant 'yung pag violate sa ating Clean Air Act, immediately pinasasara po natin yan (and if they have blatantly violated the Clean Air Act, we will close them),” he said.

He added that the agency is conducting an in-depth investigation to determine if the company has committed other violations.

Huwag po kayong mag alala kasama ninyo ang DENR para ma proteksyunan natin at mapangalagaan ang ating kalikasan (Do not worry because the DENR is here to protect and care for the environment),” said Antiporda. (PNA)