By Jennifer Catan-Tilos
NEGROS ORIENTAL (PIA) – Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has not yet approved yet the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) application for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) geothermal 60 megawatts expansion project in Valencia.
This was disclosed by Undersecretary for Field Operations Demetrio Ignacio Jr. of DENR in a press conference during the recent launching of the biggest mechanized forest nursery in the Philippines in Negros Oriental.
Ignacio explained that to secure an ECC requirement is an extensive process to undertake to ensure that it not cause a significant negative impact on the environment.
He urged the public to be vigilant and actively participate in every consultation and review the environmental impact of EDC’s project.
However, a network of environmental groups in Negros Oriental claimed that EDC has started its expansion activities by clearing the sites, installed instruments, and markings at the Mt. Talinis Range.
350 Pilipinas coordinator Zephanie Repollo said EDC’s operation brought some trees down and must be stopped.
“We do not believe that we have to sacrifice our natural forest for geothermal energy when we know for a fact that it is not the only source of renewable energy in the province,” she said.
EDC’s Negros Island Geothermal Business Unit (NIGBU) Senior Manager Engr. Vicente Omandam denied the allegations, saying that the company has not even filed any tree cutting permit in the expansion site because it has yet to receive the ECC.
Ignacio said the application of EDC is still in the initial phase that will be validated and inspected by panel of environmental experts from the academe to secure an ECC.
“For now it’s premature to cut trees because EDC has a lot to comply and to secure an ECC alone is a long process, but one thing is important now is to closely monitor because each process needs public consultations,” said Demetrio.
An ECC also certifies that the proponent has complied with all the requirements of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) System and has committed to implement its approved environmental management plan.
Omandam said EDC is currently producing 222.5MW and has applied for additional 60 MW of clean, geothermal power to answer the demands of the region’s growing economy.
The group of Repollo had filed its appeal to DENR Central Office in April to invalidate the public hearing conducted on March 10, non-issuance of ECC, and investigate the alleged cutting of 576 century old trees at the range of Mt Talinis.
Repollo said Mt. Talinis or Cuernos de Negros mountain range has been identified as a key biodiversity area (KBA) spanning 23,565 hectares covering the municipalities of San Jose, Sibulan, Dauin, Zamboanguita, Siaton, Sta. Catalina, Pamplona, Amlan, and Valencia.
Omandam said the environmentalists’ claims of 576 felled trees were activities that took place in 2013, which was covered by a permit and was under the supervision of DENR Region 7 during that time. (rmn/jct/PIA7-Negros Oriental/This article was originally published at PIA website on June 23, 2016)