environmental defenders

Negros Occidental environmentalists hail end to liquefied natural gas project

Inday Espina-Varona
Negros Occidental environmentalists hail end to liquefied natural gas project

PROTECTING NATURE. These beautiful rice terraces in Cabagtasan, San Carlos City give Bishop Gerardo Alminaza the strength to campaign for a shift to renewable energy in Negros Occidental.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza urges Negros Occidental officials to harness the existing wealth of renewable energy systems so local power coops can wean themselves from dirty fuel

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Environmentalists in Negros Occidental scored their second successive victory against “dirty” energy on Tuesday, November 15, as Reliance Energy Development, Inc. pulled out its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) application for a 300 MW liquefied natural gas power plant in San Carlos City.

“Thank you, Lord! Thank you, everyone who cares for our common home,” San Carlos Diocese Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said. “I am grateful for the help of the Almighty in ensuring that the voice of the people of Negros are heard and that the natural beauty of our island can be preserved through the minimal use of fossil fuels.”

The Center for Energy, Ecology and Development described the development as “another win against dirty, costly energy.” 

Environmental Management Bureau Region 6 Director William Cunado announced the pullout of Reliance, a wholly-owned subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) in a November 14 letter to CEED’s deputy executive director Avril de Torres. 

“This is a victory for Negrosanons, who have made their voice clear that they preferred renewable energy to LNG in sourcing their power for the island,” said de Torres.

Cunado acknowledged CEED’s letter in September, which expressed objection to the LNG combined cycle power plant project project.

CEED had also worked closely with Bishop Alminaza, convenor of clean energy consortium REpower Negros, and Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH) in the successful campaign to stop SMC’s coal-fired power plant, also in San Carlos City.

SMC pulled out of its coal project in July 2021 but replaced this soon after with Reliance’s proposed liquefied natural gas venture.

Alminaza and other environmental advocates accused the conglomerate of replacing one dirty energy source with another. 

LNG is considered a ‘transition fuel’ by some sectors. But the Negros eco warriors warned that the process still releases large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, which can trap heat at much greater capacity for a long period of time.

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Negros Occidental environmentalists thumb down proposed natural gas power plant

Negros Occidental environmentalists thumb down proposed natural gas power plant
Time for paradigm shift

San Carlos City Mayor Renato Gustilo in August railed at the environmentalists when they demanded that the Sangguniang Panlalawagan (SP) revoke its resolution of non-objection to Reliance’s project.

The mayor challenged opponents of the project to give up electricity if they do not want to make use of fossil fuels, since much of the province’s power comes from coal-fired power plants in Panay and Cebu.

Alminaza came back with a stern reminder that Negros Occidental’s leaders have been remiss in tapping the province’s rich renewable energy resources. 

“That residents of San Carlos and the province have no choice but to rely on dirty energy is something which we have been lamenting about for long, and is precisely the problem that we are asking him (Gustillo) to help address,” the bishop said.

Following the EMB’s announcement of Reliance’s pullout, Alminaza reiterated his call for Negros Occidental’s leaders to wean the province from costly, dirty power.

He pointed out that Negros Oriental had already enacted the country’s  first Renewable Energy Code.

“We hope that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan will finally listen and pull out the resolution of non-objection it prematurely issued to the project,” the bishop added.

Negros Island is dubbed the Philippines’ renewable energy (RE) capital, with its installed power generation plants producing nearly 100% RE.  Local electric cooperatives, however, contract power from plants outside Negros.

“We produce large capacities of clean energy, yet our people are not even able to fully harness and benefit from this,” the Alminaza pointed out.

“Allowing LNG to enter our shores diverts our attention from maximizing truly sustainable energy while subjecting host communities and the environment – including the bountiful marine life of Tanon Strait – to pollution and disturbance, as well as an intensifying climate crisis.” – Rappler.com

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