18 September 2008
Statement on the Expansion of the Geothermal Project of the Philippine National Oil Corporation - Energy Development Corporation (PNOC-EDC) in the Mt. Kanlaon National Park, Negros Occidental
The Freedom from Debt Coalition joins in the opposition of the communities and people of Negros Occidental on the move of the Lopez-led PNOC-EDC to expand its Geothermal Project in the Mt. Kanlaon National Park. 1. The expansion project violates Republic Act 7586 of 1992, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS Law), and Republic Act 9154 of 2001, or the "Mt. Kanla-on Natural Park Act (MKNP Act).
We believe that the expansion project is a violation of numerous laws; it will put to risk the natural environment and biodiversity of the MKNP; it does not guarantee increased energy capacity; the expansion project though a geothermal energy will not result to cheap rates; and the PNOC-EDC expansion is an effort to broaden monopoly and privatize renewable energy sources in the country.
Allowing PNOC-EDC to further encroach into the buffer zone of MKNP violates provisions under Section 14, Survey of Energy Resources of the NIPAS Law and its subsequent IRR (Sec. 54, DAO 25 Series of 1992) which explicitly prohibits energy exploration and other resource extractive activities in natural parks.
In 1993, no less than the PNOC-EDC, then a government-owned, admitted that their planned exploration of the 24,557.60 hectares natural park was illegal. The same stands even with the inclusion of a “buffer or special use zone” provision in RA 9154, a law enacted through political maneuverings and utilized by the PNOC-EDC as an excuse to contradict the NIPAS Law.
In spite of its infirmities, we believe that these laws was purposely passed and adopted by the Republic of the Philippines in order to ensure the protection of the extensive flora and fauna and guarantee the preservation of the critical water shed and rivers in the MKNP, and more importantly, to uphold the essence and principles of environmental protection and sustainable development. 2. The expansion project will put to risk the natural environment and biodiversity of the MKNP.
The MKNP serves as a shelter of the worlds largest flower family called Rafflesia speciosa. The MKNP likewise embraces the country’s most critical watersheds and is traversed by four natural rivers.
In the findings of Maunsell Philippines Inc. Biodiversity Study, commissioned by no less than the PNOC-EDC, it was revealed that the outskirt of Mt. Kanlaon is considered the “heart” of the MKNP and the same findings proceeded to affirm that the area is considered a critical wildlife habitat.
We believe that by allowing PNOC-EDC to enter into the buffer zone will only compromise its current natural characteristic. 3. The expansion project does not guarantee increased energy capacity.
Originally, the PNOC-EDC was allowed to exploit geothermal resources near the MKNP in order to harness 80-MW potential energy. The target was later reduced to 40-MW. Yet in spite the efforts in reducing its capacity to generate electricity, only a measly 9-MW of geothermal power is produced by the PNOC-EDC plant.
Now the new owners of the PNOC-EDC claims that the target of 40-MW is realizable once they are allowed to tap the areas inside the buffer zone of MKNP.
We believe, however, that even if the PNOC-EDC be allowed to exploit the buffer zone, it can only generate an estimated of 25-MW of geothermal power in a period of only 15 years.
We want to highlight that the repeated failure of the PNOC-EDC to achieve its original target to harness potential geothermal power in MKNP has already wasted enormous amount of public funds.
As such, expanding this project will never become beneficial to the electricity consumers in the Visayas grid. 4. The expansion project though a geothermal energy will not result to cheap rates.
We would like to believe that geothermal energy being a renewable energy source would result to cheaper electricity rates especially that government only collects an amount as royalty and it is exempted from value added tax.
However, if similar provisions such a “take-or-pay” will govern in the power purchase agreement of the PNOC-EDC upon its expansion, then electricity consumers in the Visayas will have little relief from expensive electricity rates. 5. Lastly, the PNOC-EDC expansion is an effort to further widen control and monopoly and privatize renewable energy sources in the country.
We view the PNOC-EDC expansion as a renewed effort of the Lopez group to widen its control and monopoly of the country’s power industry from the generation sector, to the distribution, and now to renewable energy sources.
The current move of PNOC-EDC to enter into the buffer zone of MKNP only shows how private company could utterly sacrifice environmental resources and disregard preceding laws that governs it in the name of profit.Save MKNP from geothermal exploration! Stop privatization!