Green is greed

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SAN Carlos Bionenergy Inc. (SCBI) is one of Business World’s Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines.

In 2013, SCBI ranked 893rd with a gross revenue of P1.674 billion.

Although SCBI is a cogeneration plant which produces around 7 megawatts of electricity, its main revenue earner is from ethanol produced from sugarcane and molasses.


Last year, I mentioned the San Carlos joke that it has become the “City of Smells” due to the malodorous effluent from SCBI. This has been a long-standing issue and it is disappointing that SCBI has not taken more steps to be a good corporate citizen and to eradicate the problem.

All it takes is the right equipment and it seems that SCBI has been slow to address its responsibility to ensure that the local surroundings are not adversely affected. A coal plant would be under more pressure to clean up its act. We see no reason why renewable energy companies should be treated more leniently.

SCBI’s problems relating to adverse environmental effects have been well-reported in Sun.Star Bacolod. There are those who have criticized the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for not being proactive enough. This is not the time for comment which can come later.

What is important now is that the appropriate actions are taken to stop future recurrences.

We are pleased that the proposed dumping at sea of barged-out waste water from SCBI did not happen due to the timely and statesmanlike intervention from Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. He opposes the dumping of waste water at sea because transferring the pollution problem from one place to another is not right, it has to be resolved at the point of origin.

We agree. “What smells in Negros stays in Negros.” The corollary, of course, is “What smells in SCBI stays in SCBI.”

SCBI should realize that this is no time for parsimony. An organization with a 2013 gross revenue of P1.674 billion should set aside whatever funds are necessary to ensure that the conditions set when SCBI’s Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) was issued are met. If this requires the construction of enormous septic tanks, so be it.

Recent defensive pronouncements from SCBI have been disappointing. It shows a lack of willingness to face up to its responsibilities.

For example, a recent press release from SCBI denied its involvement in the death of a significant number of fish. This is contrary to the statement of lawyer Arthur Batomalaque, head of the Integrated Waste Management/Pollution Control Division of the San Carlos City Environment Management Office, who said that fish that had been exposed to the foul-smelling waste water from the ethanol plant were killed on 11 March.

Thomas Lloyd, the German venture capital company which specializes in renewable energy projects must be concerned. The Green Party is a powerful political force in Germany and it is overwhelmingly supportive of conserving the environment. SCBI has been letting the side down. We hope that it does not affect the very ambitious renewable energy investments being planned in Negros by Thomas Lloyd.

SCBI has much work to do to make its operation socially acceptable.

DENR must now ensure that SCBI meets the conditions of its ECC. No more fish kills please!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 14, 2014.


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