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Coal-fired power plants conti­nue to be an important component of the Philippines’ energy mix and the government cannot afford to mandate a retirement of such facilities although it is prepared to disallow additional projects, according to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

Cusi said in an online press briefing on Wednesday there would be no policy to bar exis­ting power plants from continuing operations.Also, development of coal-fired projects that are yet to be built but have secured the Department of Energy’s (DOE) endorsement as well as the necessary permits from other agencies—the ones classified as “committed” or “indicative” projects—will be allowed to continue.

“The moratorium on greenfield coal-fired power plants applies only to the ones that have not yet been proposed,” Cusi reiterated, referring to projects whose proponents have not filed their applications for DOE endorsement or for permits.

Following the energy chief’s announcement last Oct. 27 of the moratorium, environmenta­list groups said the DOE should make good on its intention and also follow through by further curtailing the use of coal.

The Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) and allied organizations expect the moratorium to result in the shelving of nine coal projects with a total capacity of 5,600 megawatts, ­representing ­­40 percent of coal-fired power generation capacity in the pipeline.

Further, the group said the DOE’s next step should be the mandatory retirement of operating old coal plants at the end of their economic lifespan as well as early retirement of newly operating coal plants by the end of this decade.

“We cannot do that. Where will we get power [to replace supply coming from the coal-fired plants], sa impyerno (from hell)?” Cusi said.

When asked for details of the moratorium that was announced more than a week ago, Cusi said they were still in the process of writing down a formal advisory that would be made public eventually.