The National Assembly on Thursday voted to guarantee a $390 million investment by a Cambodian-Malaysian firm to build a coal-fueled power plant in Sihanoukville.
Following a Thursday morning debate, which was briefly interrupted by a power outage at the Assembly, 86 of the 90 lawmakers present voted to approve the agreement with Power Synergy Cooperation Co Ltd to build a 200-megawatt power plant.
Such agreements generally include financial compensation from the government if anything stands in the way of the plant’s completion.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the Assembly that the project is unique because the same company would oversee both the construction and operation of the project.
Cheam Yeap also said he anticipates electricity prices will be lower by 2010 or 2012 because the coal-burning plant will help supply electricity during dry spells when hydroelectricity plants are unable to operate.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann took issue with the proposed plant, saying he was concerned about its environmental effects.
“The coal…causes pollution; It creates acid rain that would give people skin diseases,” he said, noting that the plant could affect both Cambodians and tourists because of its location in Sihanoukville.
Yim Sovann also said there should have been an open bidding process before the agreement was reached with the private company.
Ministry of Finance Secretary of State Kong Vibol, who defended the ratification, addressed the bidding process concerns by citing eight days of discussion by the government about Power Synergy Cooperation Co Ltd.
“The company sells at cheaper prices; that is why we chose their money,” he said.
Kong Vibol also dismissed worries over possible pollution in Sihanoukville.
“We have accepted Cambodia standards, and we are working according to those standards with the least impact on the environment,” he said.
“In developed countries, they use coal. You all, especially Yim Sovann, should not worry about the environment,” he added.