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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kailan Ba Sila Matatauhan? (Electricity and the Environment Question)

Patuloy ang paglaban ng mga nagmamalasakit sa Mt. Kanlaon habang patuloy na binabalewala ito ng mga mismong pulitiko na dapat ay nangangalaga sa Mt. Kanlaon. Naisip ba nila na hindi kailanman dapat ipagpalit ang kalikasan para lamang sa elektrisidad? Eto ang isang Press Statement mula sa mga tagapagtanggol ng Mt. Kanlaon...

What Price, Electricity?

The signing of the MOA saddens us but is not unexpected. RA 9154 and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the government agency that is supposed to defend our forests and natural resources, have already allowed EDC’s geothermal project in the 169 hectares. We do not think the governor was happy to add the last signature to the death warrant for the 169 hectares. It is unfortunate that the governor and the provincial board did not at least first look at the issues that were raised in the complaint that was recently filed.

We have nothing against geothermal development. But for everything, the cost must always be equal to the benefit and the buyers, in this case, the people of Negros , have a right to make an informed choice. Do the people of Negros know what we’re getting from this North Negros Geothermal Project and what we and future generations may have to pay in terms of floods, droughts, pollution of our waters, loss of irreplaceable primary forest cover, loss of agricultural productivity, destructive typhoons because of climate change, etc? How many of the 40 megawatts that EDC hopes to get from the NNGP are slated for our province? Our electric companies and a Korean firm KEPCO already have 20 year contracts that begin 2010. If our benefit is only 5 or 10 Megawatts, not our baseload requirement but a buffer for the peak load that happens because of summer air-conditioning and Christmas lights, is the benefit worth the cost? (The Geothermal fields in Tongonan Leyte produce more than 700 megawatts. Palinpinon in Negros Oriental has an installed capacity of almost 200 megawatts. Neither are protected areas. Should we destroy part of our last 4% primary forest for a mere 40 MW?). Do the people of Negros know what is in the 169 hectares that we’re giving up? Despite its high biodiversity and endemicity (presence of species found only in Negros or in Negros and Panay), Mt. Kanlaon and this so called "buffer zone" have been so little studied that it was only in 2007 that the Rafflesia speciosa, the world’s largest flower (previously recorded as endemic species in Panay) was discovered a very short distance away from the road that EDC proposes to construct in the contested 169 hectares.

In establishing or disestablishing protected areas, the NIPAS Act (National Integrated Protected Areas System) lays down a procedure that protects the people’s right to a healthful ecology, to equal protection of laws, and to informed choice. These rights were violated in the passage of the MKNP law (R.A. 9154) against the PAMB’s (Protected Areas Management Board) recommendations, in the issuance of the 1995 Environmental Compliance Clearance covering 220 hectares that were not identified in a site specific plan, and EDC’s intended exploitation of the geothermal resource in the Jardin Ng Balo Sector within the protected area itself (violating the MKNP law which says that “Any geothermal exploration for or development of energy or mineral resources within the MKNP shall not be allowed except by an Act of Congress).

The plaintiffs in the case to save Mt. Kanlaon also want nothing but what is best for the people of Negros and what the people of Negros want. We are not pitting our children against children who need EDC to go to school or parents who need EDC to provide their livelihood. Neither is this a case of private citizens versus the governor and our local officials. For all Negrenses, our cause is one. What is important now is that the truth be determined about what the people of Negros really need and if the benefit of satisfying this need through EDC's geothermal project is going to be worth the cost that our children's children will have to pay.

Andrea L. Si
Counsel for the Save Kanlaon Coalition

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