Keep fossil gas out of Leyte!

Church, fisherfolk, and other concerned groups ask for clarity from San Miguel Corporation (SMC) if its proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant will truly be beneficial to locals, amid concerns on implications to largely agricultural and highly climate-vulnerable Leyte and surrounding provinces, and with how little information and education efforts have so far been on issues relevant to the project.

Questions were raised as SMC subsidiary Prestige Power Resources Inc. (PPRI) held a public scoping for the 600 MW project Friday in Brgy. Tugas in Tabango – the second SMC is holding in Visayas in less than two weeks, with Negros Occidental locals also airing worries on the San Carlos LNG project at its own public scoping last week.

“Last January, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines released a new Pastoral Statement on Ecology calling for unity and action amid a climate emergency and planetary crisis. Leyte knows firsthand how dire the climate situation is, with the devastation many calamites bring us every year. Humans have played a big role in the degradation of our Common Home – particularly because of the kind of energy we use. We hope to understand why we are looking to have an LNG power plant enter Leyte, knowing that in doing so, we are contributing to a crisis that our people already suffer harshly,” said Naval Bishop Rex Ramirez, whose diocese oversees the church in Tabango.

In 2013, Leyte and surrounding provinces were hit hard by Typhoon Yolanda, known as one of the deadliest climate disasters in the world in recent history.

“We do not want another Yolanda. It was a wake up call that the climate crisis is real, and that it is in the best interest communities hard-hit by the typhoon for industries that make the climate situation worse end as soon as possible. This fossil fuel project will not even benefit Leyte directly with the power it will produce, why must they welcome it with open arms?” said Fara Diva Gamalo of Freedom from Debt Coalition – Tacloban and Oriang Tacloban.

The power plant intends to contribute power to the Visayan grid once operational. Meanwhile, key stakeholders also testified to not having been involved in any information and education campaign (IEC) by PPRI-SMC., a requirement for power projects to  comprehensively conduct prior to the public scoping.

“Nalaman ko lang na may ganitong proyekto isang araw bago ang public scoping. Balewala ba sa PPRI-SMC kung may mga tanong o hinaing ang mga taga-Tabango? Sana hindi. Marami dito sa amin ang umaasa sa kalikasan para sa pang-araw araw na kabuhayan. Kung makakaapekto sa kanila itong planta ng LNG, dapat maging malinaw ‘yon,” said Tabango Holy Child Parish Priest Fr. Edgar Dolina.

Clean energy advocates have been raising alarm on the steep rise of new fossil gas and LNG projects planned in Visayas and the rest of the country, as their construction and operation will harm not only host communities, but also climate and energy security and affordability ambitions.

“We wonder if the reason why fossil gas project proponents exert seemingly insufficient IEC efforts is because they are worried stakeholders will come to understand how undesirable it is to have an LNG plant in their shores, or to be forced to pay for the expensive electricity it will produce once it is feeding power into the grid. Local government leaders in Leyte and Visayas would be better off choosing not to entertain new LNG proposals, turning their attention instead to making clean, affordable energy and green jobs from renewables available to their constituents,” said Avril De Torres, Deputy Executive Director of energy think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).