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The coddling of a toxic terror

The protection, preservation and nurturing of life is more than just an act of survival based on instinct, as it is with the animal kingdom.

For human persons it is a rational balancing of alternatives, as to what action is best to take in any given situation. The fact that we have free will to choose a way of life that can save life, rather than destroy, damage or endanger it, allows us to make rational and morally good decisions.

But not all people agree on what is the right course to take or what may be the best thing to do in any given situation. Competing opinions and interests can result in conflict if reason does not prevail.

Some questions seem to be fairly straight forward, like is it morally reprehensible to spread toxic waste in a neighbourhood, cut trees that will result in landslides and bury hundreds of people, or build a factory that emits poisonous substances in a pristine environment?

The poison fumes and waste would contaminate the air and environment, and be highly life-threatening to those in vicinity. We would be inclined to presume that rational, moral people would not even think of it.

But there are educated and intelligent people who are hell-bent on willfully ignoring the scientific truth about the clear dangers of coal-burning power plants, a monster belching mercury, sulphur, heavy metals and deadly chemicals into the environment on the shores of beautiful Subic Bay.

But officials at RP (Republic of The Philippines) Energy, a local conglomerate composed of eminent, intelligent business people is allegedly doing just that.

They are pushing for the construction and operation of a coal-fired plant on Subic Bay, although a panel of experts has determined that the Environmental Impact Assessment required by law was done improperly and is inadequate, as it ignored many important factors and impact zones.

Were the former officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority complicit in allowing it to go ahead? What consideration persuaded them that it was a rational and good thing to do despite the uproar and strong opposition to it?

Experts say that their approval and Environmental Impact Assessment is rife with serious problems. It may be cancelled by the new board of directors and a new and proper one be conducted.

The eminent professionals have been consulted, done their research and submitted their results.

But the board of the conglomerate says in the newly released report that says that the conditions are not present to merit the banning of a coal-fired plant and the health of the natural assets and ecosystems in the adjacent free port and rain forest can be assured.

But the report actually says, “The proposed coal plant would pose a wide range of negative impacts on the environment, the ecosystems and human population within the impact zone.”

In addition, it adds that damage caused by acid rain to the rain forest, acidification of the bay, sulphur, nitrous oxide, mercury and lead in the atmosphere “would adversely affect the health of the populace in the vicinity.”

It goes on to say that warming and acidification of the seawater in the bay, resulting in the bio-accumulation of contaminants and toxic materials would eventually lead to the overall reduction of marine productivity.

With this accumulated evidence showing that the coal-fired power station would be a prodigious polluter and a toxic terror could have still got the go ahead from the previous board is shocking.

The report means that if the plant goes ahead, the visionary plan of the new administrator, Robert Garcia, to convert the little used seaside airport area across the bay from the proposed coal-fired plant into a family-oriented integrated international destination would be dead in the water.

Who would bring their children to a toxic, dangerous environment to play, or take to the proposed golf-links, or swim in a bay rife with deadly mercury and chemicals? No one I would suggest!


● Father Shay Cullen