Saturday, November 2, 2013


Statement of Vice-Governor Victorino Dennis M. Socrates 
before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan  in special session 
on 31 October 2013

Honorable Board Members, distinguished guests, friends in the gallery, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

The vote this morning leading to the passage of this Resolution (favorably endorsing the 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Aborlan) is a political decision.  By unanimous vote of the Members present, this august body has decided in favor of development.

The question of endorsing the proposed coal-fired power plant in Aborlan is not complicated.  It does not, in itself, present any ethical dillemma.  This will not involve any violation of the moral law. 

Nor is there any real issue concerning the impact of the proposed project to the health and safety of the residents of the locality, or the environment, which are matters addressed to the further technical evaluation of personnel of the various government regulatory agencies involved, including our own Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.  Indeed, around 60% of the power supply in Luzon comes from coal-fired power plants, which are allowed precisely because they pass the standards set by our national scientific-technical regulatory agencies.

The only issue before us, therefore, is whether or not we want development.

The proposed project responds to an urgent need for electrical power supply in Palawan not only to meet the existing demand (our present supply is unstable and hardly meets demand because of antiquated generating equipment), but even more important, to electrify—to connect to the global economy—the thousands of households in mainland Palawan alone that are still in the Dark Ages; and not only that: to allow as well investments to come in.

But like all political decisions, our choice will not be pleasing to everyone.  There is opposition based on the ideology of conservation; and there is opposition based on a sentimental attachment to the status quo, to keep things as they are, and to maintain the rural or even deep-forest ambience of the town.  We respect their positions. 

But on the part of the political leadership of the provincial government, under the leadership of our beloved Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez, the overwhelming mandate from the electorate—manifested in an avalanche of votes giving him an unprecedented majority in the May 2013 elections—has been precisely for change—Pagbabago—which seeks to raise the 80% of Palaweños who are at present living below the poverty line to at least the level of the middle class; and, hopefully, to fly Palawan from third world to first in nine years.  This will not happen without rapidly increasing the supply of electricity by at least three times within such period, to power the industrial estates, five-star resorts and hotels, massive housing, transportation, and port requirements, hospital and other service facilities, and yes, call centers, as well as others we may not yet be capable of visualizing.

While there are other possible sources of energy, there is no other serious proponent in view apart from the coal-fired power plant seeking our endorsement to take the further steps towards its eventual operation.  Nor do we see any cogent reason to deny the endorsement sought. 

Furthermore, our beloved Governor has obtained an undertaking from the proponent, incorporated as a condition attached to our endorsement, to shift from coal to bio-mass fuel, and to design its equipment to allow such shift, in the event that the latter should become less expensive than the former—which is most likely to happen—and which will provide livelihood for thousands of families in Aborlan who could then be growers of the bamboo that can be used as substitute for coal.

In our system of democracy, the elected representatives are the voice of the people.  The proposed project has been endorsed by the Sangguniang Barangay of Barangay San Juan, Aborlan, and by the Sangguniang Bayan of Aborlan, having jurisdiction over the territory in which the proposed project will be undertaken and operated. 

The least that we in this august body can do in response to the crisis of our time is not to be obstacles to the hopes of our people to be finally and fully connected to the global network of production and exchange of goods and services; to become participants, no longer excluded, no longer marginalized; in short, to be liberated from poverty.

Maraming salamat po sa inyong suporta at pag-unawa.


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