Coal-fired power firm plans carbon sink

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 July) – Thai-Filipino joint venture firm Conal Holdings Corporation and the local government of Maasim in Sarangani province have agreed to jointly develop a 10,000-hectare carbon dioxide sink or reservoir in preparation for the planned construction of a 200-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in the area.

Coal is considered as the dirtiest fuel, and environment groups have been campaigning for its banning as an energy source.

In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Conal Holdings and Maasim committed to reforest, rehabilitate and develop Maasim’s vast brushlands, grasslands and forestlands for the establishment of a natural carbon sink for the company’s coal-fired power plant, which will be built starting next year at the coastal village of Kamanga.

“Conal is committed to support the development of tree farms, small scale agro-forestry systems and tree plantations as carbon sink with the different tenure holders and legitimate forest occupants in the forestlands of Maasim,” the MOU said.

Maasim Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr. and Conal Holdings Vice President Joseph Nocos signed the MOU, which was finalized last June 21.

Conal Holdings, a joint venture of the Alcantara family’s Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc. and Thailand’s Egko, earlier announced that it will invest at least $450 million for the development of the Kamanga Power Plant in Maasim.

Sarangani Governor Miguel Dominguez’ mother is an Alcantara.

The Kamanga Power Plant project aims to initially generate 200 MW of electricity and help stabilize the Mindanao power grid by 2011, with two incremental expansions of 350 MW over a period of 15 years.

In the MOU, a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews last Friday, Conal Holdings acknowledged that the proposed coal-fired power plant “will emit greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere that may pollute the air and contribute to global warming.”

To help counter this problem, the company is banking on the development of the carbon sink in the area and the utilization of the circulating fluidized bed combustion technology, which reportedly reduces pollutant emissions to levels below ceilings set by Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999.

It stressed that Conal Holdings is committed to support the national government’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Rolando Tubales, Maasim environment and natural resources officer, said the development of the carbon sink is a requirement for the operation of coal-fired power plants under the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nation’s Agenda 21 program for sustainable development.

“Studies showed that one of the most effective measures to sequester carbon emission is the planting of trees,” he told MindaNews.

Tubales said Conal Holdings and the municipal government plan to develop at least 10,000 hectares as carbon sink, but he stressed that the area will be expanded within the next several years.

He said Maasim currently has an available open area of about 44,000 hectares, which are within the declared public lands in the area.

He said at least 91 percent of Maasim’s total land area of 51,107 hectares is classified as public lands.

The official said the development of the carbon sink will be based on the provisions of Maasim’s four-year old municipal Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP).

He said the local government is currently implementing the FLUP with the tenure holders of legitimate forest and forestlands.

Under the MOU, Conal Holdings and the local government of Maasim also committed to “collaborate and share their human, technical, material and financial resources in the formulation and development of specific terms of agreement that will govern the establishment, management, protection and sharing arrangement of the carbon sink.”

They will also spearhead the creation of a technical working group that will be tasked to formulate the terms of a memorandum of agreement that will specify the establishment, development, management and sharing agreements of the tree farms, small scale agro forestry systems and tree plantations that will be covered by the carbon sink by the end of September.

Conal Holdings and the local government of Maasim are targeting to transform the MOU into a MOA before the end of the year or upon the approval and endorsement of the municipal council and the Sarangani provincial board. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

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