SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) started a stakeholders’ consultation process in a bid to consolidate the opinion of various concerned sectors on the coalfired thermal power plant being proposed for construction at the Redondo Peninsula here.
The agency formally launched the Social Acceptability Process Stakeholders’ Consultation last week under a policy to strictly review all environmentallysensitive projects (ESPs) proposed for implementation in the Subic Bay Freeport.
SBMA Chairman-Administrator Roberto Garcia said the agency wanted to ensure that projects to be put up in the zone which the SBMA board had been declared environmentally sensitive, are acceptable to stakeholders.
“This way, the stakeholders are given a sense of participation in preserving and protecting the environment of the Freeport which is a mandated function of the SBMA,” Garcia said.
Facilitated by SBMA directors Philip Camara and Norberto Sosa, the takeholders’ consultations drew the participation of local government officials from Olongapo City, the municipality of Subic, and Bataan province, as well as local businessmen, residents of the free port and neighboring communities, Ayta tribal leaders, and socio-civic groups.
Camara noted, however, that project proponent Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc. (RPEI) declined the invitation to attend the consultation.
“They (RPEI officials) said that they are not going to participate because their (investment) contract was approved in June 2010 and the policy (on environmentally sensitive projects) was approved only in 2011. So they feel that they are not bound by these proceedings,” said Camara, who chairs the SBMA board’s committee on good governance.
Camara said this was the first time for the SBMA board to implement a social-acceptability process that was aimed at getting organized inputs from different stakeholders.
“What we want from the chartered associations are formal resolutions stating their position, and more importantly, why and what specific issues and concerns (they have) after having heard from the resource persons. In the end they will be translated to conditions (that should be met) prior to the issuance of the permit,” he said.
Citing an example, Camara explained that in June 2011, the RPEI requested for a site development permit, which the SBMA Board disapproved because of some unfulfilled provisions in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between SBMA and RPEI.
Because of this, the SBMA issued only a site preparation permit to RPEI, Camara said.
Meanwhile, Freeport residents and locators lauded the new members of the SBMA board of directors for initiating the consultation in a bid to promote good governance and transparency.
“We really appreciate that for the first time, residents can approach and have open communication with SBMA directors. This is something we never had before, in particular before any project that may affect our community was started,” said Josephine Floresca, a real estate developer.
Floresca also said that one of the reasons why her company was able to convince their clients to locate in Subic was because of the eco-tourism attractions that that the SBMA has been promoting in the free port.
Olongapo City councilor Jong Cortez said that the consultation is a big boost to the government’s thrust of prioritizing the interests of the citizenry, whom President Aquino has described as “the true bosses” of public officials.
Zambales Vice-Gov. Ramon Lacbain II, former Olongapo City councilor JC Delos Reyes, and Greater Subic Bay Tourism Bureau chairman Jorge Lorenzana, among others, also thanked the SBMA for initiating the unprecedented process of consulting stakeholders for coal plant project.