[News] Locals, concerned groups walk out of Meralco-A1E’s LNG project public scoping; say gas is not welcome in Atimonan

Quezon residents and environmental advocacy groups on Monday walked out of a public scoping for the 2,400 MW liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant project of Atimonan One Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of the power generation arm of the Manila Electric Company (MGen-A1E).

Groups including Quezon for Environment (QUEEN), Tanggol Kalikasan, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), and Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) have long been raising concern over the project, as it would bring no real benefit to host communities and would instead trigger environmental, health, and livelihood problems for residents.

“This gas project replaces A1E’s earlier proposition to build a coal plant in our town – a project that ultimately did not push through because we fought to protect Atimonan from coal. A1E likes to boast that it is taking a cleaner step by pushing for a gas plant whose capacity is twice as much as the canceled coal project, but we know very well that it’s not true. No gas project is welcome in Quezon, not when what it will bring to us is nothing else but decades and decades of pollution,” said Fr. Warren Puno of QUEEN, Parish Priest of the Our Lady of Peace & Good Voyage Parish in Atimonan and Ministry of Ecology Director of the Diocese of Lucena.

The groups also submitted a letter urging the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s Environmental Management Bureau to cancel the public scoping due to A1E’s failure to comply with all requisites before holding one, including the effectiveness of its information, education, and communication campaigns.

“Quezon is already the dirty power capital of the Philippines. The least that proponents of another fossil project can do is to be truly transparent to stakeholders and exhaust all means to comprehensively inform them of the possible impacts of their project. We’re concerned that IECs that have happened so far are an attempt to hush valid concerns without truly addressing them, and an effort to water down truths behind risks that a fossil gas power plant will bring to host communities,” said Monsignor Noel Villareal of QUEEN, Parish Priest of the St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish Church Pagbilao.

Natural gas or fossil gas is a fossil fuel that has been on the receiving end of much concern from energy advocacy groups and communities across the country, who say building dependence on it goes against development, energy security and affordability, and climate interests of Filipinos.

“We are in solidarity with communities in Quezon standing up against this LNG project. After shelving their coal proposition, MGen-A1E should have already realized by now that stakeholders in Quezon would settle for no less than genuinely clean and beneficial power, yet here they are again attempting to shove gas into the province. Fossil gas is not clean. It is also not cheap – power from LNG could cost anywhere from Php 9/kWh to Php 16/kWh for generation alone. If MGen-A1E and even local government officials really hope to do good for Atimonan, they would be better off promoting renewable energy technologies,” said Gerry Arances, convenor of Power for People Coalition (P4P).