By Roi Lomotan
VALENCIA, Negros Oriental (PIA) – Environment advocates here were disappointed with the outcome of the recently-held public hearing on the proposed 60-megawatt expansion of renewable energy firm Energy Development Corporation (EDC) in Mount Talinis.
Representatives from some environment groups were dismayed when the moderator of the open forum announced that the discussion was over after the last reactor from the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI) shared his reaction to the topic.
Friends of the Environment in Negros Oriental (FENOR) co-founder Leo Mamicpic pointed out to the organizers that they should have given a chance to respond to the points delivered by Robert Dy, energy sector chairman of NOCCI.
Dy mentioned that Valencia is lucky to have a vast geothermal power and if they would turn into solar energy to produce the 60-megawatt (MW) power it would require 565 hectares of land to be used as solar farms and there’s no source for this big part of land in said town.
The environmental group representatives lamented that the organizers of the event didn’t open the floor to all people who wanted to raise their points and ask questions and instead selected one representative per sector.
EDC seeks to expand its output from 222.5Mega Watss (MW) to 282.5MW in which additional 20MW will be allocated for its Nasuji Power Plant and the remaining 40MW will be reserved for its future developments.
The Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-EMB) organized a public hearing to solicit opinion from different stakeholders on the topic.
Aside from this, consumers are also at risk in paying high electricity rates if electric cooperatives will source energy from solar power producers because of the fixed P8.69 feed-in tariff (FIT) imposed in solar and wind energy.
However, he clarified in an interview with the media after the event that they cannot compare solar energy to geothermal energy the way one compares apples to other products.
In response to this, Mamicpic said producing 60megawatt power will not require more than 500 hectares of land and only needs one hectare per megawatt or a minimum of 60 hectares.
He also emphasized that solar farms are installed in areas with no trees.
“Solar corporations will no never install plants in the mountains in the forest because the sun there is not viable. It has to be on the flat land where there are no trees,” he said.
He said that in Bais there are idle lands used for solar farms.
Valencia Contract Growers Association president and Valencia Municipal Development Council member Florante Vicuña expressed his support for the development of solar farms because this kind of renewable energy does not destroy the forest.
He fears that proposed expansion can bring damage to the forest in Mt. Talinis.
Meanwhile, 350.Org – Negros Oriental coordinator Zeph Repollo, also complained that organizers had already prepared a list of people who will speak and didn’t give opportunity to other people who would like to ask for clarifications.
She then expressed her dissent to the proposed expansion because it would damage the remaining forest cover in the province.
She also raised if all the 16 cities and municipalities that benefit from the Mt. Talinis were invited to attend the public hearing.
350.Org- Negros Oriental posted an official statement on the issue on its Facebook page.
The group pointed out that the public hearing did not tackle thoroughly issues on water and air quality as well as the effects of the proposed expansion to people’s livelihood and health.
Pederasyon sa Nagkahiusang mga Mag-uuma nga Nanalipud ug Nagpasig-uli sa Kinaiyahan Inc. (PENAGMANNAKI) official and biodiversity advocate Pol Cariño also cited in the forum the lack of the Watershed Management Plan (WMP) of the local government of Valencia.
He underscored that WMP should be tackled first before proceeding to discussing issues on development.
He said the public should protect the watershed area of Mt. Talinis which has a total area of 15 hectares.
Aside from this, environment advocates also criticized the organizers of the event for presenting a blurry powerpoint presentation of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted by a third-party firm GHD.
Mamicpic said participants cannot appreciate and read the findings of the study because it was shown in a blurry presentation.
Environmental advocates also hung a streamer carrying the message “Stop DENR-EDC Road Construction to Mt. Talinis.”
Environmental advocates walked out of the venue before the public hearing was adjourned.
In response to these reactions from environment group, DENR-EMB – Negros Island region director Sophie Manuel said all their concerns have been recorded and suggested that they forward their concern to DENR-EMB. (ral/PIA7-Negros Oriental/This article was first published at PIA Website on Mar. 16, 2016)