Advocacy Mindanow: Visiting country’s first coal dome PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 02 January 2015 14:56

BY Jess Dureza

 

Last Saturday,  while our GESTUVEO family clan was having its annual  reunion at the Seagull Beach in Davao City, I had to quietly  sneak out for a  few hours so as not to miss a planned visit by our group (called the NANDING BOYS) to see for the first time the first ever COAL DOME in the country. When I was asked by BETH  where I was going (no, she never suspects whenever I occasionally  get “lost”..)  I  pointed to a  dome structure glistening across the waters from our resort house at PUNTA DUMALAG. The  THERMA SOUTH INC. (TSI)  of the giant power  ABOITIZ conglomerate is making its finishing touches to a power plant at Binugao, Toril in the southern boundary of Davao City about 25 kilometers away from downtown. From my resort house balcony,  across clear waters on a clear day, a 300 MW coal-fired plant is fast    rising and will soon be commissioned early 2015 or in a few months from now. Frankly, although Beth and I were hosting a rare annual family event,  I did not want to miss the opportunity to take a peek at what’s  inside that huge dome. I had studied — and visited— other coal-fired plants and I was curious with that dome  that I had been watching from a distance  taking shape over the past 2 years along the shores of  Davao Gulf.

NANDING BOYS — The so-called “Nanding Boys”  doing this “ outing” is actually composed of a small group of close friends of Archbishop Emeritus Fernando “Nanding” Capalla who  clustered  around , welded  by common friendship and high  esteem for the recently retired Davao Archbishop “Nanding”. The power plant visit was made possible because Aboitiz top executive MANUEL “BOBBY” ORIG is one of the Nanding Boys ( but of course!)  Joining us aside from Archbishop NANDING  and BOBBY  were  Aboitiz’ Davao Light  Vice President ART MILAN  Businessman NILO CLAUDIO ;  KarAsia’s  AL BARRETO  and Gawad Kalinga’s RENE RIETA.

FIRST DOME —    At the briefing room, JASON MAGNAYE, who had a long and distinguished career in both the private and public sectors, is  a prized recruit of TSI who now  skippers the company  division  that handles the sensitive job of community relations (COMREL). He  said the dome is the first and only coal dome in the whole country as of today.  During our drive-through inside the huge dome, I learned for the first  why the dome is a welcome and latest addition to a coal-fired plant. It is where “dirty” coal is securely    stored,  pulverized,  and then fed to the boiler furnace  that produces steam which in turn  runs the generators that eventually produces power.

NO LONGER “DIRTY”— For those of us who still  remember watching those  old  western  movies with coal-fed train engines, what stuck in our minds were the dirty-faced workers who continuously shoveled black coal to a furnace to keep the train engines running and the heavy black  smoke coming out of the train smokestack.  Well, basically this is the same principle, except that today, new technology has been developed to clean up the “dirty” coal and minimize the effect on the  environment and comply with acceptable and allowable international standards of harmful sulphur oxide emission.  A dust capturing device called an “electrostatic precipitator” does the job. Even the unloading of imported coal (possibly from Kalimantan, Indonesia) from the vessels docked at the private jetty will be using enclosed  conveyors to the storage dome where after being crushed, the coal will be moved to the silos and fed to the furnace by gravity.

CAPTURING ASHES — Other existing coal plants in the country store their coal supply in sheds like our favorite barangay “covered courts”. The TSI- Aboitiz plant at Binugao, Toril has adopted the latest technology of a dome coal storage plant to bring to the highest next level mitigating measures to protect the environment. The  ashes are captured before they are released into the air and  will be  stored in a sealed  5-hectare ash land fill. We drove through the area  that was  being constructed and saw the ongoing  matting  to prevent leaks to our waterways. An early rehabilitation plan and protocols are  already in the drawing boards for the  “disturbed” area just to secure the future beyond the “plant life” period.

MARINE — Even the limited volume of sea water that will be used to cool the plant will be returned back to the sea after passing through a cooling pond to maintain the normal temperature of the sea  to protect marine life  in the immediate vicinity of the plant, not to mention the possible enhancements  that TSI will introduce  to improve the marine conditions in the area.

BENEFITS —  It will be interesting to know that the some of the  gathered “fly ash” will be used as raw materials for cement making and even hollow-block making for the livelihood program of the host  communities surrounding  the plant in the barangays of Binugao and Inawayan and other  outlying areas. There will be close and sustainable engagement with the host barangays when the power plant gets operational. Benefits to the local residents and communities are assured and forthcoming  with the reglamentary SOCIAL DEVEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT PROJECT (SDMP) that  will go full blast upon full operation. Although the plant will only need highly technical people of less than 200 to operate the hi-tech hub, the social corporate responsibility  (CSR) thrust that is markedly already a trademark of the ABOITIZ business empire will benefit the bigger community beyond its  immediate environs.

VIGILANCE — Although the new plant has a total capacity of 300MW, there is already approval of an additional 300MW more generating capacity that will be set up in the same site. This augers well for us Mindanao  knowing that we are still badly lacking in power. A power plant that is “embedded” right here in our neighborhood will ensure sustainable development. But as we welcome this new facility, our advocacy for environment protection and well-being must continue without let-up. Vigilant citizen action is needed to see to it that power plants including government agencies comply with our stringent environment regulations to protect us and Mother Earth from harm.

We must not let our guards down.