Thursday, February 02, 2006

Gov't troubled by slow NAPOCOR clean-up of Semirara

From the Office of Anakpawis Representative Crispin B. Beltran
Reference: Rep. Crispin Beltran (+63)927.871.1080
Lisa C. Ito, Public Information Officer (+63)927.796.7006
Tel. # (+632) 931-6615 Email:

February 1, 2003

Privatizing state utilities gives more environmental headaches, solon warns
Gov't troubled by slow NAPOCOR clean-up of Semirara,
what more if NAPOCOR is hogged by irresponsible foreign companies?

Making a bid against the privatization of the power industry, Anakpawis Rep.
Crispin Beltran said today that even the Semirara oil spill could illustrate
the "environmental headaches to come if the Philippines' basic industries
are left open to foreign control and ownership".

"Now that one of the biggest oil spills ever in Philippine waters is being
cleaned at a snail's pace by the state power corporation, the Philippine
government should imagine and reconsider how much more environmental and
financial damage could result in a similar situation where state-run
companies such as NAPOCOR are privatized and put into the hands of foreign
multinational companies (MNCs)," Beltran said.

A National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) barge ran aground last month,
spilling around 180,000 liters of bunker fuel on 236 hectares of mangroves,
posing a threat to at least 40 sq. km of Semirara's marine life and at least
2,000 seaweed farmers and fisherfolk in the area.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported this week hat only around six
percent of the affected area has been cleaned up since the Dec. 18, 2005
accident. NAPOCOR is required to fund and undertake the cleanup operation.

"We are already apprehensive over the NAPOCOR's slow-paced and severely
undermanned clean-up of Semirara. Would another oil spill of a similar
magnitude as this be given enough attention if the accountable state-run
bodies such NAPOCOR are to be fully privatized and controlled by
irresponsible foreign MNCs that have a record of environmental degradation
at the time of any accident? Kung sa atin pa lang ay hirap na hirap tayong
ipatupad ang batas, paano pa kaya kung mapasakamay ang industriya ng
kuryente ng dayuhang kumpanya? " he asked.

"Environmentalists, the Philippine Coast Guard, and solons from Lower House
and Senate are already expressing alarm over the situation. But it will be
even more difficult for the Philippine government to ensure environmental
protection and justice for any untoward environmental accidents if these are
caused by foreign MNCs in the future, precisely because these entities are
not beholden in any way to us and are in fact, being welcomed by an
administration that can't wait to throw national sovereignty and patrimony
out of the window via Charter Change," he warned.

The activist lawmaker cited the case of the Exxon Valdez spill of 11 million
gallons of crude oil along the Alaska coast in March 1989. Sixteen years
later, Exxon Mobil Corporation still refuses to comply with a 1994 Anchorage
federal jury ruling ordering the company to pay $5.3 billion in compensation
to around 34,000 affected people.

"If companies like Exxon have the temerity to ignore and violate rulings
right in their own territories for decades, how much more in a country like
the Philippines which they would view as an extension of their investments
and corporate playing fields? It's all too easy for such moneyed entities to
escape accountability and litigation if ever another disaster with the
proportions of the Semirara oil spill should occur again in the country" the
activist solon asked.

"We really hope that something like the Exxon case this never happens here,
but the possibility lingers that foreign MNC privatization of basic
industries and utilities will ignore the impact on local ecosystems and
consumers, and contribute to the long-term negative effects on the
environment if they gain more ground on Philippine soil or waters," Beltran

Beltran was referring to the current calls to privatize NAPOCOR and other
state utilities through laws such as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act
(EPIRA) signed by Pres. Arroyo in June 2001.

EPIRA aimed to privatize as much as 70% of these power utilities by 2004,
but has so far been unsuccessful in fully attaining this goal due to the
rising opposition against the power industry's privatization, Beltran

"Surrendering our public utilities to private corporations will equate to
the systematic sale of our national patrimony and sovereignty, and
endangering our ecological systems in the process," Beltran said.

"It's good that we can still put the pressure on NAPOCOR to hasten the
urgent clean-up. But this kind of commitment and accountability to the
affected area and residents threatens to be severed if our basic utilities
are privatized according to Mrs. Arroyo's grand plan for the power
industry," Beltran said.

After warning of the environmental implications of MNC privatization,
Beltran added that "even the NAPOCOR's financial woes can be traced to the
influence of foreign MNCs".

"In the first place, it was the NAPOCOR's onerous and inequitable contracts
with so many independent power producers or IPPS that has led it to be
heavily mired in billions-worth of debts. 22 out of these 41 IPPs are
foreign-owned," he said.

"In addition to giving ample space, resources, and time to the Semirara
clean-up and mulling over legislation on marine pollution, Congress should
also devote more time to reviewing and repealing the national government's
privatization plans for basic utilities, such as power and water. The
Semirara oil spill gives us a sneak preview of the devil we will be up
against if we allow the privatization of basic utilities to proceed as
planned," Beltran ended. ###


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