History of a struggle
How a small group of courageous Camiguinons took up the fight against a multi-million Peso company and their local government in order to save their environment –
THE ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE DIESEL POWER PLANT IN MAUBOG, BALBAGON, MAMBAJAO CAMIGUIN –
AN EYE OPENER AND LESSON ABOUT THE WORKINGS OF PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS (picture: stage sabotaged with used oil by forces close to the power plant operators before an anti power plant demonstration)
A timeline of events:
March 15, 2013
The Camiguin Electric Cooperative CAMELCO signed Resolution No. 22 authorizing the General Manager to sign a contract with Kings Energy Generation Inc. (KEGI) to put a diesel power plant in the midst of an inhabited neighborhood in Maubog Balbagon, Mambajao.
July 1, 2013
The DENR/EMB of Region X, issued a Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC), instead of an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) which by law would be required for Diesel Power Plants.
An ECC would require not only very strict inspections but also clearances and certifications of approval by various Offices. A Certificate of Non-Coverage means nothing less than the Balbagon Power Plant is exempted from oversight by the agencies that are meant to scrutinize polluting industrial projects.
In addition, if they fail to comply with the requirements of the CNC, the fine is only Fifty thousand Pesos (Php 50,000.–), a tiny fraction of the operating profits of the plant.
During the issuance of the ECC, the DENR/EMB claimed that only power plants above a capacity of 5 MW require an ECC. Fact is that at least since October 2014 all power plants above 1 MW do require an ECC.
THREATS AND INTIMIDATION
July 10, 2013
Four immediate neighbors of the Diesel power plant (those within 100 meters distance) were invited to the Mayors’ Office where the Mayor, her son the Congressman, and her Governor-husband intimidated them. The neighbors were threatened with expropriation. Their foreigner husbands were to be declared Persona non-grata unless they sign there and then a no objection waiver. Only one widow, out of fear signed.
July 13, 2013
The government organized what they called a Baranggay public hearing. Under the law, a public hearing is compulsory for this sort of project. In reality only a few residents were called by text messages. Even the head of the Punong Baranggay was not present. The immediate neighbors were neither notified nor invited. Those who signed a so called ATTENDANCE SHEET later on included the representatives of CAMELCO who are not residents of the baranggay and Members of the Punong Baranggay. This attendance sheet was later used as APPROVAL list.
July 28, 2013
A small group opposing the plant formed and formulated a position paper which was sent to the National Offices: Dept. Of Tourism, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Health and to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) complaining about the unlawful approach to build a power plant.
August 13, 2013
Discovering a Presidential Proclamation 1801, the group sent a copy of the Position Paper to the Office of the President. 1801 is declaring certain islands, coves and peninsulas in the Philippines as tourism zones and marine reserves under the administration and commerce of the Philippine Tourism Authority.
No development projects or construction for any purpose shall be introduced within the zones without prior approval of the President of the Philippines upon recommendation of the Philippine Tourism Authority. Camiguin is one of the islands which are covered by Proclamation 1801. The President never approved the Diesel Power Plant Project.
October 9, 2013
The group started a Facebook page under the name of THE CITIZENS FOR GREEN AND PEACEFUL CAMIGUIN (CGPC) in order to inform Camiguinons of the proposed diesel power plant.
CONSTRUCTION WITHOUT THE NECESSARY PERMITS
October 14, 2013
Bulldozers started leveling the site of the proposed diesel power plant without the necessary permits. The Department of Agrarian Reforms (DAR) is supposed to issue a Conversion Order, allowing an agricultural land to be converted into an industrial land. There was no conversion order issued at this time. This means that there was a PREMATURE DEVELOPMENT of the site.
December 11, 2013
As reaction to our letter to the President of the Philippines, members of THE CITIZENS FOR GREEN AND PEACEFUL CAMIGUIN (CGPC) were invited to the Sangguniang Bayan. All Mayors and their entourage and the Provincial Governor and his entourage were present.
CGPC was represented by Maria Teresa Reyes-Rami, Fe E. Ulfstein, Rene Tamayo and Rene G. Maestrado as neighbors and Mr. Orlando Ravanera and his representatives of ONE SENDONG IS ENOUGH and Atty. Jun Narido as concerned citizens. The representatives of the government spoke without interruption for three hours. The complainants were granted less than an hour in which they were constantly interrupted.
The meeting was clearly meant to intimidate CGPC.
May 24, 2014
THE CITIZENS FOR GREEN AND PEACEFUL CAMIGUIN Inc. formally registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-profit, non-government organization.
Members of the first Board of Trustees were Maria Teresa R. Rami (President), Jocelyn Diana King (Vice President), Fe E. Ulfstein (Treasurer), Jonas Ebcas (Secretary) and Edilberto Joaquin Elio (Board of Trustee Member)
CONSUMERS WILL SUFFER
June 26, 2014
CGPC received a letter from the NATIONAL ELECTRIFICATION ADMINISTRATION (NEA) presenting the CONTRACT between CAMELCO and KEGI on a 4.4MW diesel power plant.
NEA criticized the contract as advantageous only to the of the electricity supplier.
As a result the consumers would suffer from high electricity bills which according to NEA will increase immediately by almost half – up to Php 18/kWhr once the plant is operational.
A further consequence is that a newly acquired submarine cable costing over PHP 220 Million will not be fully utilized.
The Contract was not approved by NEA, and CAMELCO was advised to revisit the conditions.
July 11. 2014
CGPC was invited to a meeting at the Department of Energy (DOE) in Manila, to be shown the documents pertinent to the acquisition of a new parallel submarine cable (see the submarine cable controversy). The issue of the diesel power plant WAS NOT ALLOWED to be discussed.
August 22, 2014
CGPC and Rene Tamayo as associate, filed a complaint at the Sangguniang Bayan against the Punong Baranggay of Balbagon for failing to protect his constituents from the ill effects of the diesel power plant and that no public hearing was made prior to the approval. This complaint was a must to start the ball rolling.
As expected, the complaint was dismissed due to lack of Merits.
CASES AND COMPLAINTS
August 26, 2014
A Writ of Kalikasan was submitted to the Supreme Court.
This is a Petition to pursue State Policies and principles that are enshrined in the Constitution and pertinent laws, such as the PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT, THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS, THE PROMOTION OF TOURISM AND THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE PARTICIPATION OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR. The main purpose of the writ of Kalikasan is to give the population a say in the decision making of projects that affect their environment and health and to protect them from environmental destruction and health hazards.
September 16, 2014
CGPC wrote the head of the Provincial DENR referring to the declaration of Mt. Timpoong as a Natural Monument and the DIESEL POWER PLANT in Maubog which stand in contradiction. NO reaction was received. In March 2016 the two mountains towering over the diesel power plant were declared an ASEAN Heritage Park.
October 2, 2014
On behalf of the neighbors Atty. Raul Paayas from Cagayan de Oro filed a complaint against the provincial and regional Heads of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Region X and against the Head of Provincial Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) with the Ombudsman.
October 30, 2014
A new parallel submarine cable was supposedly commissioned. (Check: NO DIESEL POWER PLANT is necessary for the power demand of the island)
April 8, 2015
Upon discovering ERC CASE NO. 2014-119RC filed on August 8, 2014, CGCP submitted a position paper against the Provisionary Application for a Power Supply Agreement (PSA) between CAMELCO and KEGI.
In this new contract, there is very little change. The only thing clear is that the diesel power plant is going to operate for at least 8 hours, contrary to the argument of the proponents that the plant will only operate during peak hours.
Until now, the group did not receive any reaction from the ERC.
April 29, 2015
CGPC organized a Press Conference in Cagayan de Oro. A local journalist claimed that Camiguin government had bought the press in order to suppress the opinion of CGPC.
SABOTAGE AGAINST THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH (see picture above)
November 5, 2015
CGPC organized a peaceful legal assembly in Mambajao, Camiguin. During the night the stage of the freedom park was flooded with used crude oil probably by power plant advocates. CGPC filed complaints at the Mayors’ Office, the DENR and the Philippine Police. No action was taken. Earlier, the Mayor did not issue a permit for a peaceful Assembly and rally against the plant in front of the power plant.
The DENR confirmed that “they found traces of crude oil”. The PNP investigation included CGPC who could have sabotaged itself in order to gain public support (sources).
November 7, 2015
Second Peaceful Assembly in Sagay. The Vice Mayor granted a permit for the rally. Unidentified sources sabotaged it with smoke.
November 16, 2015
Behind a closed gate and high walls Camiguins ruling political clan and the owners of the diesel power plant celebrated its inauguration with several lechon (roast pig) and music played by a band.
The premises of the power plant currently also boast luxury accommodation and two swimming pools. Water pipes to the premises come from a water tank partly funded with KALAHI money, coming from the US and intended for the development of communities. The residents of Maubog constantly suffer from water shortages.
KEGI apparently received the Certification of Compliance (COC).
KEGI started commercial operation with temporary approval by the ERC. The Electricity bills rose immediately to PHP 14/kWh.
Neighbors reported that the DPP has not been operating. The electric bill rose to PHP 15.06/kWh anyway.
It was announced in Facebook that DOE Undersecretary Benito Ranque toured the DPP accompanied by General Manager Adriano Ebcas, CAMELCO Board of Directors Mario Sacala and De La Rosa and some Bonbon Carman officials.
CGPC will continue to fight against the illegal diesel power plant.