CA junks Kalikasan plea vs. RP Energy

OLONGAPO CITY–The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed Wednesday the Writ of Kalikasan petition filed by environmentalists last year against the proponent of the 600-MW coal-fired power plant in Redondo Peninsula, Subic Bay.
The court, however, said that the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) in 2008, 2010, and 2011 that was issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were invalid.
The ruling also invalidated the lease and development agreement signed in 2010 by the coal plant proponent, Redondo Peninsula Energy (RP Energy), with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
In the decision, the Court denied the petition on the grounds that the petitioners failed to prove that their right to a balanced and healthful ecology was violated or threatened with violation and that any damage would affect the lives of locals in two or more cities or provinces.
The court said that “petitioners failed to prove their allegations that the construction and operation of RP Energy’s power plant using the CFB [circulating fluidized bed] technology will cause environmental damage of such magnitude as will adversely affect the residents of the provinces of Bataan and Zambales.”
The dismissal of the environment case removes one of the two remaining humps for Meralco-led company to construct the US1.28-billion, 600-MW power plant project.
RP Energy and the SBMA are still negotiating the new lease and development agreement that would give the cash-strapped Freeport authority some P200 million in rental fees.
SBMA chairman earlier told that both parties are still negotiating, adding that they “will have it finalized soon.”
In its Facebook page, the anti-coal plant group rejoiced at the decision, claiming that the CA granted the much sought after Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) against RP Energy.
Jen Velarmino, a member of the coalition against the coal-fired plant, said that RP Energy is “back to square one.”
“The Court of Appeals released its decision yesterday favoring our petition of Writ of Kalikasan with Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) against the proposed RP Energy,” Velarmino posted.
She also reminded the local officials to respect the decision.
“The courts have spoken. We expect you to respect and support the stand of the communities and the stakeholders,” Velarmino said.
The dispositive portion of the ruling, however, stated that the court denied the plaintiff’s request for “the privilege of the Writ of Kalikasan and the application for an environmental protection order.”
In a statement, RP Energy counsel George Aquino said they “presented overwhelming evidence that the power plant project will not cause any adverse environmental impact. It will utilize state-of the-art technology and RP Energy took great care in complying with all the requirements for the issuance and amendments of the ECC as required by the DENR.”
The case, filed before the Supreme Court on July 20, 2012 by party-list representatives led by Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino and Olongapo City-based environmental group No-To-Coal, was remanded to the Court of Appeals for hearing and decision.
Respondents included RP Energy, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and SBMA. ●Butch Gunio

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