Torn Between Economic Benefit and Global Health (Davao to set up coal-fired power plant)

Posted: March 17, 2012 by arjaybylah in Uncategorized

By: Alyzza Junett M. Cabuenas

AboitizPower Corp. through its owned subsidiary Therma South Inc. is to put up a P25-B coal-fired power plant which is located within the boundaries of Barangay Binugao, Toril, Davao City and Barangay Inawayan, Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur. This is to be set up in 52 hectares of land. Of this, 31 hectares will come from Barangay Binugao, with the remaining land belonging to Barangay Inawayan. This plant is expected to be operational by the 14th of May; 2014 with the capacity to produce 300 megawatts of electricity for Davao City and surrounding areas.

The proposed plant is to utilize Clean Coal Technology. This gives it the least harm to the environment by reducing its emissions. Therma South’s plant is a circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion (CFB) coal-fired power plant. CFB is a technology that catches harmful carbon dioxide and particles of sulfur. This keeps these from polluting the atmosphere while ensuring high efficiency in electricity production. The AboitizPower proposed one solution to lessen the coal plant’s environmental impact; it is to use seawater for the plant’s operation, so as not to disturb the fresh water sources surrounding the proposed area for the plant.

The construction and development of this plant is approved by the legislative council with a vote of 23-1; most cited the economic benefits as reasons of their affirmation. And we need a power for the next generation. However, it did not sit well with the only one member of the city council, Ms. Leah A. Librado together with environmental groups who opposed the plant’s operation in the region.

The energy, environment, health and trade committees of the City Council conducted three hearings, these hearings allowed the proponents and opponents to present their sides and suggest alternatives to the coal plant. The councilors cite economic benefits as well as the ease of regulation in approving AboitizPower proposal. Opposition to the plant has been fierce. Greenpeace Philippines stated; “coal will only bring problems to Davao. There is no great benefit that the people of davao city will get in hosting a coal plant: the gains from this project are only for the developers, AboitizPower, and will come at a great cost to Davao citizens.” The Dabawenyos Ayaw sa Coal (DAC) adds, “potential problems from coal ash waste byproducts and operational hazards to workers and surrounding communities alone already pose a big threat.” These groups suggested renewable energy sources as an alternative to the coal plant. One of these is a 50-MW energy project in Davao slated for 2014. About 100-MW of solar service contracts targeted for Mindanao were submitted to DOE as of April, while other renewable energy projects expected to produce 300MW of power are being scheduled for 2011-2017.

With the approval, of the committee report, a proposed city ordinance that will then be submitted for a third and final reading in the next session. After which, it is needed to be submitted to the city mayor for her signature. And we, as citizens of Davao, we should take part of this issue, and as the main concerned of the benefits and negative impacts of this coal-fired power plant. Now, let me cite the advantages and disadvantages of having coal plant to generate electricity.

Coal is considered as a fossil fuel like oil and gas. Basically, Fossil fuels are all formed because of the organic matter deposited, decomposed and compressed in the ground. Because of these processes, the fossil fuel will begin storing all the carbon involved under the earth’s surface for millions of years.



Compared to oil and gas, coal is considered to be the most abundant of the fossil fuels. According to Planete Engeries, the world reserves of coal can last for at least 200 years at current rates of use.

Infrastructure and Technology

Coal has been used by humanity as a great source of energy for a long time. Because of this, the systems used to transport coal from coal mine to power plant are already well established. Coal is delivered to power plants primarily via train. Another thing is that coal is really easy to mine compared to other types of fossil fuel such as oil and gas.


Another good attribute about coal is that it is considered as the cheapest fossil fuel option; this is mainly because of the abundance of this fossil fuel and ease of mining. There are a lot of countries today that are now using coal in order to produce electricity.

• Easily combustible and produces a large amount of energy upon combustion. This helps a lot in causing locomotion and in the creation of electricity and other types of energy.

• Can be easily distributed all over the world;

• Even though, mining can be moderately dangerous when extracted, after extraction coal is one of the safest form of renewable energy to ship and handle; if there are a few precautions taken. Since, unlike other fossil fuels, this requires little or no special type of handling.

• A coal-fueled power station can be built almost anywhere, so long as you can get large quantities of fuel to it. Most coal fired power stations have dedicated rail links to supply the coal.


Carbon Dioxide

This is considered to be one of the major disadvantages of burning all fossil fuels. Increased carbon dioxide levels have been liked to climate change. Coal also releases the largest amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere compared to either oil or gas.

Sulfur Dioxide

Another product from burning coal is sulfur dioxide. When cast into the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide converts to sulfuric acid, because of oxidation, and becomes a component of acid rain.

Amounts Needed

In order to produce electricity, Power plants need to burn coal for 24 hours a day. This means that there will be shipments of coal that are delivered regularly and stored on the site of the powerplant. This means that coal will occupy a large amount of land.


Even thought there are a lot of fossil fuels, like coal, in this world, it is only considered as a finite resource. Since, once all of the reserves on Earth is already used up, no more can be created. Moreover, it is estimated that within 200 years worth of reserves remain at current use.

Dangers to health.

• Because of coal power, there are a lot of people lives that are put into danger.

• A coal plant generates about 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year; this is one of the main causes of global warming.

• A single coal plant creates 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings.

• When people dig for coal, they tend to cut down many trees.

• A coal plant also creates 720 tons of carbon monoxide; which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease.

• A 500-megawatt coal- fired plant draws about 2.2 billion gallons of water from nearby bodies of water. This is enough water to support approximately 250,000 people.


Minds are battling about this proposal; some made a stance that it would give so many benefits as the city paves its way to progress, some are irrevocable to fight against it and protect ours and next generation’s environment. For me, it is so ambiguous in such ways, that most of the people are dying to protect mother earth and cure global warming, (though it is so elusive to cure) and, on the other hand, some are busy stretching power and wealth by building economically attractive stations, disputing the effects it would cause.

I, as a legitimate citizen of Davao, am torn between economic benefit and global health, I assume that it’s better live in a community simply and have a clean environment to prolong my life and enjoy it with the resources blessed upon me, than to live luxuriously but with a dangerous atmosphere. So, I wrote this article without prejudice, but I’m making my stand against the harmful coal-fired power plant.

Honestly, I wanted the city, the region, the whole Mindanao, the country; to be progressive. But I need the earth, my environment to be safe and harmless, so it could caress me as I live my life. And as it ends, I will leave it to my next generation for them to take good care of it and live with it much better than I did.


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