The false claims that, among others, the province is putting up a coal-fired power plant were exposed as fake news in separate forums attended by those who are themselves against the “dirty” technology.
Civil society organizer and leading anti-coal advocate Emilia Roslinda told the media that the province, through the Bohol Energy Development Advisory Group (BEDAG), has been “very transparent and open.”
Acting Vice Governor Venzencio Arcamo and Board Member Abeleon Damalerio said the provincial government has no plan, much less is the proponent, of any coal-fired facility to generate electricity in Bohol.
Arcamo on Wednesday led the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) Committee of the Whole hearing amidst the multi-sectoral call not to allow in Bohol any power generation project that uses coal.
Roslinda said, “Wa gyod mi pugngi ni Gov. (Edgar) Chatto. Iya pa gani ming gidasig sa pagpadayag sa among baroganan. (Gov. Edgar Chatto never stopped us. He instead encouraged us to ventilate our stand.)”
After the SP hearing, Roslinda also showed up and joined Chatto during his weekly media forum, Kita ug Ang Gobernador, at the Governor’s Mansion on Friday.
Roslinda’sstatement alone was deemed validating the governor’s own earlier clarification that the provincial government has no plan for and is not a proponent of any coal power plant.
Also earlier, Chatto said the discussions in BEDAG have been open to what can be the best technology or combination of technologies for Bohol and the Boholanos.
Having participated in its discussions, Roslinda said she could attest to the transparency of the BEDAG, which is chaired by the governor.
She cited the active BEDAG participation also of businessman Argeo Melisimo, tourism keyplayer and lawyer Lucas Nunag, Jr., and Provincial Planning and Development Officer (PPDO) John Titus Vistal.
Melisimo is the executive vice president of the Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) while Nunag chairs the Provincial Tourism Council (PTC).
They and Vistal likewise opposed the entry of the coal technology as they favored the renewable or clean energy.
Damalerio said that as far as he could recall, it was Nunag informing the SP in the hearing that BEDAG has not even yet decided on which power project proposals to accept for further selection.
The separate forums unzipped the lie in the done deal intrigue, which was further assailed as deceptive and dangerous.
Roslinda said their presence in the BEDAG “proves the participatory governance and shared leadership practiced by the Chatto administration.”
From the start, the primary considerations in pursuing Bohol’s energy development have been asserted in BEDAG discussions—cost-efficient, reliable supply, and environment-friendly power generation and supply.
Chatto said the false critics must have been used to past acts so that they could always and easily create faults for others without feeling any guilt.
In their manifesto, the different environmental groups and other sectors advanced their rejection of any plan, either from private or government investor, of a coal power facility because it is “dirty, costly and deadly” to the environment and human existence.
Also heading the Bohol Association of Non-Government Organizations (BANGON), Roslindasaid: “we are sad when we talk of coal.”
Thus, “we thank the governor for the opportunity to ventilate our fears and reasons,” she said.
Those in the energy sector, including the power distribution utilities (DUs), cited their basic requirement by law to provide lest-cost electricity.
This is under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA Law.
Being most knowledgeable of their industry, the DUs said in the SP hearing that only the coal technology could provide fully-resilient electricity at a lest cost.
But they also tagged as fake news the allegation being spread out that the province has planned and proposed to put up a land-based coal-fueled electric plant.
In its last meeting the other week, which was before any fake news was peddled around, the BEDAG already tackled the concern, articulating the pros and cons ofa learned decision.
Chatto had all the arguments endorsed to the SP for further policy discussion, the Capitol legislature being the highest policy-making body of the province.
Board Member Ricky Masamayor, who chairs the SP public utility committee, was present in the BEDAG meeting.
Chatto welcomed the anti-coal manifestation since it can help in crystallizing the issues and balancing the act as Bohol tracks on the path to where the province can enjoy the best it desires and deserves.
OVER 50 PROPOSALS; ONLY 4 FOR COAL
Already over 50 power development proponents have presented to the BEDAG their different technologies and capacities.
Only four of them use the coal technology in generating electricity as the rest offered liquefied natural gas, bunker fuel, biomass, hydro, solar and wind technologies, as well as combinations of technologies.
The energy industry sector, not the provincial government, talked of the coal-fired power technology as the only that could provide resilient electricity at lest cost.
But aside from cost efficiency and supply reliability, Chatto insisted on ensuring that the environment should be among the primary considerations.
Through the BEDAG, the province insisted on this policy so that the advisory group endorsed to the provincial board the issues for further policy discussion that allows public participation, notably the anti-coal ranks.
Also, the DUs, not the province, will conduct the competitive selection process or bidding for their common supplier of electricity in years to come.
Chatto said the issues and concerns pertaining to what best technology or best combination of technologies to pursue can lead to standpoints which are vital to finalizing the terms of reference (TOR), which guide the competitive selection process.
The winning bidder, who can also be a group of power developers, will build the land-based power generation facilities that will supply the DUs.
This is under the aggregate power purchase agreement among the three DUs—Boheco I and II and Bohol Light Company, Inc.—under the so-called One Bohol Power (1BP), a BEDAG innovation.
Chatto said they are expected to respect the policies of the province, including the Bohol Environment Code which was crafted by the SP under the governor himself as its presiding officer when he was vice governor.
While they cited the EPIRA mandate for least-cost electricity, the DUs may not be at all troubled by the environment-sensitive policy of the province to avoid a coal-fired power plant.
As an industry practice, higher electricity price is passed on to the consumers who are the end-users.
WHY NOT REFUSED?
The province has also been intrigued by its detractors why the private proponents of coal technology were not outrightly refused to present their proposals.
Even if Bohol is envisioned to be a prime ecotourism destination with sound environmental management, it is never the policy of the province to prevent any development investment presentation.
There is no policy discriminating or law banning a project proponent that wishes to participate in the province’s energy development program from making known its proposal just because its technology uses coal.
Chatto said that is why BEDAG has been created, a first in this province and said to be the only of its kind in the country, for the government, energy sector, and all other stakeholders to be guided to the best direction.
Through the BEDAG, the province has from the beginning been open to the renewable energy scheme, or a best possible combination of clean energy technologies, he said.
Based on the EPIRA Law, the DUs can just do their own in selecting their common power supplier that will also build facilities in Bohol.
But because of capitol’s creation of the BEDAG, conflicting views are freely discussed for the good of the province, according to SP Secretary Bonifacio Quirog who also echoed the anti-coal clamor.
The governor reiterated that the arguments against and for the coal technology are welcomed since they will further guide the province to a more learned decision.
In the final analysis, Chatto said, the concern can simply boil down to two: “Are we for high-cost but cleaner energy? Or are we for cheap energy yet costly to the environment, health and life?”
According to an opinion from the energy industry sector, in the absent of the coal technology, the competition is lost, and the other energy technologies can dictate the much higher cost of electricity.
Bohol can have a land-based power facility for base load, but without using coal while still getting supply from outside coal-fired power plants like in Cebu, Chatto said.
Also in BEDAG’s last meeting the other week, the governor said: “time can come that the renewable energy supply heightens and that from coal lessens, although there is still no coal plant here.”
Thus, Chatto himself warned those who also spread the false information that the BEDAG is doing fast in the transaction for a coal power project.
The governor said this falsehood is intended to make the people believe that a coal power project is cooked up, a done deal.
Provincial Administrator Alfonso Damalerio mentioned two DYTR radiomen who distorted information and falsely remarked on air.
Although he did not name them, Damalerio identified one of the two as a Balilihan resident and that the same people were also involved in two previous lies.
Damalerio was referring the past fake stories to the alleged $81 million bank account of an unknown Bohol official and Abu Sayyaf capture reward money, which was allegedly cut and pursed in by military, police and government officials.
“Research if you are true journalists,” Chatto challenged, adding that “we have good media people, but the distortion of truth is never the role of the fourth estate.” (Ven rebo Arigo)