FIRST PHILIPPINE HOLDINGS IS A CORPORATION THAT IS CONSTANTLY IN ACTION. WE’RE ALWAYS TRYING TO FIND WAYS TO DELIVER FOR OUR STAKEHOLDERS AND THE FILIPINO PEOPLE.
Energy Development Corporation (EDC) organized a recent site visit for various stakeholders to its Southern Negros Geothermal Power Plant (SNGP) in Valencia, Negros Oriental, to dispel erroneous environmental allegations about its 60-megawatt expansion plan.
EDC, the country’s biggest geothermal energy producer, is expanding SNGP’s capacity from 222.5 to 282.5 MW to meet the region’s growing electricity needs.
Earlier reports from some quarters said the EDC expansion required an additional 5,163 hectares that would encroach into Mount Talinis, considered a key biodiversity area in Negros Oriental.
But during the site visit on Aug. 10, 2016, the stakeholders learned the EDC expansion calls for an increase in capacity, not in area.
“We will confine our expansion within SNGP’s existing geothermal production block in Valencia,” Jay Joel Soriano,” head of EDC’s Negros Integrated Geothermal Business Unit (Nigbu), told the visitors, most of them from local and international non-government organizations (NGOs).
SNGP’s existing geothermal production or development block spans 5,163 hectares located in the Palinpinon-Okoy watershed in Valencia, which is physically separate from Mount Talinis.
Within the geothermal production field, SNGP’s steam field and power plant occupy less than 200 hectares, and the expansion will be confined within the existing development block of 5,163 hectares.
“I believe the issue about SNGP’s plan to expand by another 5,163 hectares is a result of a misunderstanding, because the supposed additional expansion area corresponds to our existing development block,” Soriano noted. “But as we have been saying, we are not in Mount Talinis and we are not going to Mount Talinis.”
During the visit, Vicente Omandam, Nigbu senior manager, pointed to a direction southeast of SNGP’s power plant.
“Mount Talinis is two mountains away from our location,” he told the visitors. “From here, it will take you almost a whole day of walking to reach it,” he added.
EDC is awaiting the release of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for its 60-MW geothermal expansion.
Contrary to criticism from some quarters about EDC’s lack of transparency and stakeholder support, the company has gone through public consultations and hearings for its ECC application and has received the strong endorsement for an ECC from the host communities and local government of Valencia.
“But pending the release of the ECC, EDC has not begun any activity for its proposed geothermal expansion project,” Soriano said.
NGOs that sent officials or representatives to the site visit included Green Convergence, The Climate Reality Project–Philippines, Haribon Foundation, Archdiocesan Ministry on Environment, SEED4COM, Let’s Do It Philippines, EcoAgri, Climate Change Congress of the Philippines, and Development Options and Social Entrepreneurship, Inc.
After the visit, Dr. Angelina Galang, president of Green Convergence, threw her support behind EDC. Green Convergence is a coalition of networks and individuals working for sustainable development.
“We in the Green Convergence Board commend EDC for its environmental practices and processes. These practices and processes in protecting the environment and in developing clean and renewable energy should be emulated, not criticized,” Dr. Galang said during the site visit.
Rodne Galicha, Philippine country manager of CRP under former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, also expressed satisfaction over EDC’s openness and appealed that any issue raised on their project should be addressed in a manner, which conforms to international standards and targets of relevant sustainable development goals supported by empirical evidence.
“We are happy that EDC has clarified the issues raised against it, however, we call on both parties, including the DENR, to sit down together for a genuine dialogue in good faith, with full transparency and participation of communities. Negros Island has won the battle against dirty old coal and is blessed with renewable energy sources such as geothermal to utilize without compromising the capacity of the next generations to survive while addressing the present needs of its people,” Galicha said.
Omandam also shared with the visitors SNGP’s on-going “10M in 10” project. Under the project, SNGP is forging a partnership with various groups to plant 10 million tree seedlings in 10 years. Started last year as part of EDC’s nationwide BINHI reforestation program, the “10M in 10” project is considered the first and biggest private sector-led forest restoration program in one region.
Trees planted under the “10M in 10” project will come on top of 3.2 million trees replanted in earlier tree-planting activities of EDC.
Omandam showcased the replanting activities to dispel reports about SNGP’s illegal cutting activity. “We cannot exist without forests because we rely heavily on healthy watersheds to recharge our geothermal reservoir,” Omandam explained. “Without them, our steam fields will dry up and will cease to supply geothermal energy to our power plants.”
Soriano also stressed that EDC adopts the international planning tool, called “mitigation hierarchy”, that requires a sequence of actions to avoid adverse environmental impacts.
“Under this hierarchy, the first action is to avoid an impact. Where avoidance is not possible, impacts are minimized. When impacts occur, these are rehabilitated or restored and where residual impacts remain, there should be an environmental offset,” Soriano explained.