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EDC reaches out to community

On project’s environmental concerns

Lopez-run Energy Development Corporation (EDC) is expanding the capacity of its Southern Negros Geothermal Plant (SNGP) by 60 megawatts, but as a responsible corporate citizen, it has been flexing muscles first to explain and clarify environmental issues thrown against the project.

GEOTHERMAL SITE VISIT – Guests and hosts pose for a group photo during their recent visit to the Southern Negros Geothermal Power Plant (SNGP) in Valencia, Negros Oriental. Energy Development Corporation, the country’s biggest geothermal energy producer, is expanding SNGP’s capacity from 222.5 to 282.5 megawatts to meet the region’s growing electricity needs. It organized the site visit to dispel erroneous environmental allegations about its 60-MW expansion plan.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.SNGP’s existing geothermal production or development block spans 5,163 hectares located in the Palinpinon-Okoy watershed in Valencia, which is far from Mount Talinis, a key biodiversity area in Negros Oriental. 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, and not in Mount Talinis. /2016.mb.com.ph

GEOTHERMAL SITE VISIT – Guests and hosts pose for a group photo during their recent visit to the Southern Negros Geothermal Power Plant (SNGP) in Valencia, Negros Oriental. Energy Development Corporation, the country’s biggest geothermal energy producer, is expanding SNGP’s capacity from 222.5 to 282.5 megawatts to meet the region’s growing electricity needs. It organized the site visit to dispel erroneous environmental allegations about its 60-MW expansion plan.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.SNGP’s existing geothermal production or development block spans 5,163 hectares located in the Palinpinon-Okoy watershed in Valencia, which is far from Mount Talinis, a key biodiversity area in Negros Oriental. 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, and not in Mount Talinis. /2016.mb.com.ph

The company thus opened its doors to a site visit by various stakeholders raising concerns on the planned power facility expansion – including those that will be directly affected at its project site in Valencia, Negros Oriental.

EDC said it arranged the site visit for the affected constituencies “to dispel erroneous environmental allegations about its 60-megawatt expansion plan.” Most of the invited stakeholder-visitors have been local and international non-government organizations (NGOs), including 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.

The publicly-listed firm announced that it will be expanding the capacity of its Southern Negros geothermal facility to 282.5 megawatts from currently at 222.5 megawatts– fundamentally, to help address Visayas grid’s growing electricity requirements.

The apprehension of many interest groups and affected parties stemmed from reports that the planned investment expansion at the plant will require an additional 5,163 hectares – with fears hoisted that this “may encroach on Mount Talinis” – considered a key biodiversity zone in Negros Oriental.

With the site visit, EDC qualified that the stakeholders were able to understand and be clarified upon that “the EDC expansion calls for an increase in capacity, not in area.”

According to Jay Joel Soriano, head of EDC’s Negros Integrated Geothermal Business Unit (NIGBU), the company “will confine expansion within SNGP’s existing geothermal production block in Valencia.”

He stressed “I believe the issue about SNGP’s plan to expand by another 5,163 hectares is a result of a misunderstanding,” qualifying further that in reality, “the supposed additional expansion area corresponds to our existing development block.”

Soriano reiterated and explicitly set on record that “as we have been saying, we are not in Mount Talinis and we are not going to Mount Talinis.”

NIGBU Senior Manager Vicente Omandam, similarly noted that “Mount Talinis is two mountains away from our location…from here, it will take you almost a day of walking to reach it.”

The company’s existing geothermal production or development block traverses an area of 5,163 hectares along the stretch of Palinpinon-Okoy watershed in Valencia, which was emphasized to have been “physically separate” from Mount Talinis.

EDC explained that “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.”

For the proposed capacity expansion, EDC is still awaiting the release of its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“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,” the Lopez firm said.

Soriano also pointed out that “pending the release of the ECC, EDC has not begun any activity for its proposed geothermal expansion project.”

EDC relayed that after the visit, Dr. Angelina Galang, president of Green Convergence, sounded off that they opted to throw their support to the project. 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 US 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.