Lighting up one island should not be at the expense of covering the rest of the archipelago in black, dirty, deadly dust.
Coal may be a natural energy source, but it is definitely toxic.
The only reason it is still being widely used in many parts of the world to generate electricity is because it is cheap and readily available.
However, its economic value must be weighed against the health costs on people and the environmental damage it causes.
Coal plants emit mercury sulfur, and other toxic chemicals that are known to cause pulmonary decease, birth defects on humans and severe damage to marine ecosystems and vegetation.
They churn out very fine dust called particulate matter which are blown within a diameter of 90 miles from source and penetrates deep into the lungs of people and animals.
And yet we persist in burning the dirty fuel.
In fact, another coal plant was put online to bring more electricity to the Visayas.
The 150-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Iloilo owned by Panay Energy Development Corp. and built at a cost of P15.6 billion, has been switched on on Nov. 23.
It is the third generating unit of PEDC, which already has two 82-megawatt units operating in the village of Ingore, La Paz District.
The additional electricity is expected to meet growing demand for power in Western Visayas and other areas, which are experiencing an economic boom led by business activity in this city.
Generating capacity of power companies in the Visayas grid increased to 3,469 megawatts with the addition of the new coal power plant.
The supply does not yet include input from the 100-megawatt coal power plant owned by Kepco-Salcon Power Corp. in Cebu, which is undergoing maintenance work, according to engineer Jose Rey Maleza, supervising service research specialist of the Department of Energy Visayas field office.
Current electricity demand in the Visayas grid reaches 1,767 megawatts in the afternoon and 1,801 MW in the evening.
Maleza said the new plant would assure continued power supply in Panay Island even if submarine cables that bring power to Cebu, Negros and Panay Islands are cut or suffer problems.
The demand for power in Panay, especially Iloilo, continues to increase amid a construction boom and opening up of new businesses.
The city’s average power demand has reached at least 100 MW this year. The demand is expected to increase by at least 5 MW next year.
Business operators welcomed the additional power supply as a boost to the city’s economy.
“The additional capacity actually demonstrates the confidence of investors,” said Ma. Lea Lara, executive director of Iloilo Business Club.