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PIA Press Release

Former rebels, academe say yes for development

by Russtum G. Pelima

Maasim, Sarangani (27 February) -- A group of former communist rebels has expressed support to local officials and Conal Holdings Corporation on how environmental issues for its proposed power plant here are addressed.

The municipal environment office has been conducting dialogues and consultations with the Madaris Muslim group, women's organization, people's organizations, and the academe.

The Organization of Sarangani Agro and Aqua Life Association (OSAAA), a group of former rebels, was briefed about the power plant Wednesday, February 25.

"This is the answer to our long awaited dream for development," Colon barangay captain Noel Tapan said during the consultation.

Tapan, a former OSAAA president, was one of the scores of communist rebels who returned to the folds of law last August.

"Now we understand the issues and we believe our support in the community is also needed for the success of this project," said Tapan.

"Some people might be jealous about us for this development project, and so I call on everybody to help maintain peace and order in our community," Vice Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon said.

A 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant is proposed to be constructed in barangay Kamanga. The P20-billion facility called the SM 200 project is the answer to the projected power shortage in 2012, according to Conal Holdings officials.

"We choose building the power plant here because we will have more power demands in Southern Mindanao in the near future," said Joseph Nocos, Conal Holdings vice president.

"It is equipped with the state-of-the-art technology," Nocos said. "Although it is first time in the Philippines, many other countries in the world are using this technology."

SM 200 is a joint project by Conal Holdings under Alsons Group of companies and EGCO Group from Thailand.

Nocos assured that "we will be in complete compliance of the environmental laws of the Philippines and the international environmental laws."

A multi-partite monitoring team will be organized where government and non-government sectors, people's organizations, academe, business and other sectors are represented. The monitoring can begin as soon as the Environmental Compliance Certificate is issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Environmental Management Board.

"We are thankful for this project because other than it can provide jobs for our community, we know now that our health and our environment are not in danger," OSAAA president Ronnie Llego said.

Perlita Luardo, a teacher from Notre Dame of Maasim, said: "I understand they (Conal) will be using these filtering machines and condensers."

"But our fear is who will really benefit if Maasim will be industrialized especially in terms of employment?"

During its construction, SM 200 project can provide 1,000 jobs for the community, according to Nocos.

Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr. said a hundred students have already undergone a skills training for free by the Technical Education Skills and Development Administration.

The mayor said more students will undergo skills training for employment in the project.

"It's time that we must take the big leap towards development," Lopez said.

Maasim has been an Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) dependent municipality (92% of its P70 million IRA) with slow economic activity.

When the SM 200 project becomes operational, it would pay P40 million to P60 million real property tax to the local government.

Maasim is identified by the provincial government as the center for industrial development. The town is a component of the Maasim-Kiamba-Maitum Industrial Triangle (MAKIMA-IT) now filed both in House of Representatives as a local law and in the Senate. (Sarangani IO/PIA 12) [top]

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