Demand transparency

The vigilance of consumers proved to be a match for business giant San Miguel Corporation, which withdrew an application for an environmental compliance certificate for the proposed 600-megawatt Liquified Natural Gas Combined Cycle Power Plant Project in Tabango, Leyte.

Prestige Power Resources Inc., a subsidiary of SMC’s energy arm Global Power Holdings, was putting up the facility, which residents said might have resulted in the loss of their livelihood derived from fishing.

Tabango is part of the franchise area of the Leyte V Electric Cooperative, which is notorious for high prices as it charges P17.0340 per kilowatt hour, one of the highest in the country.

The success of the Leyte residents in preventing the SMC project is a lesson on what should be done to its atrocious petition for a P4.80/key rate increase to cover supposed P15 billion in losses due to higher prices of coal and the alleged supply restrictions in natural gas from the Malampaya field.

Consumer groups, however, said SMC has not shown any verifiable proof of its claimed losses.

Constant vigilance by ordinary consumers, in effect, thwarted what could have been a potential deterrent against harmful designs of big business.

Consumer groups opposing the SMC Global Power petitions with the ERC said the Tabango experience may convince the company to shift to renewable energy and “to stop forcing expensive and environmentally destructive energy on Filipino consumers.”
The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice was among the groups that called for a halt to the project, saying SMC bypassed consultations with major stakeholders for the project. It also failed to inform residents and the Leyte municipality of details of the power plant it was putting up.

The conglomerate should have provided a proper information drive and dialogue, aside from consultations with the municipality, surrounding communities, and environmental groups.

SMC, according to the group, had failed to comply with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources requirement by leaving major stakeholders, such as cooperatives and the church, in the dark.

Communities surrounding the project thought what would be constructed was either a cement factory, brewery, or a solar energy power plant.

“The confusion merely confirms the fact that SMC is not transparent with its project,” PMCJ Eastern Visayas convenor Richard Impas said.

The P41.49-billion worth proposed project would have been built on a 26-hectare leased land with East Genesis Landholdings Inc.

Construction of the plant would have started in the third quarter had it not been for the public outcry.

The plant had targeted the start of operations by the first quarter of 2025.

Consumers acting in concert ensures that they get what is due them.

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