By KARL BEGNOTEA
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This solidarity statement was released by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment for the Save Mt. Talinis campaign in Dumaguete, in response to developments in their struggle against the geothermal power plant expansion of the Energy Development Corporation.)
We, in the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), express our solidarity to the climate activists of 350.org Pilipinas and the Negrenses under the Save Mt. Talinis Campaign. The campaign is opposing the geothermal power plant expansion of Energy Development Corporation (EDC) which has inflicted environmental degradation in the protected forest areas of Mt.Talinis, Negros Oriental.
The 23,565-hectare Talinis mountain range is a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) that covers nine municipalities in Negros Oriental. Deemed as the province’s “last frontier,” it is host to thousands of species of flora and fauna, and supplies the water needs of Southern Negros.
However, this lush verdant forest has been recently subjected to threats of forest clearing due to the EDC’s encroachment to construct the proposed Southern Negros Geothermal Project (SNGP), which has a plant capacity of 60 MW. This is in addition to their existing 222.5 MW geothermal plant.
Strong opposition from communities and local environmental advocates are being waged against the construction of the geothermal plant due to its negative impacts on the ecology of Mt. Talinis, which can result to the loss of vital ecosystem services. Local organizations have also raised concerns on irregularities over the process undertaken by EDC to secure necessary permits for the project from Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR).
According to 350 Pilipinas, a convening organization of the Save Mt. Talinis Campaign, the EDC has already been cutting trees in their site clearing operations despite the absence of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the project. EDC has persistently denied that Mt. Talinis is part of their development area, but 350 Pilipinas has provided sufficient evidences proving that there are ongoing tree cuttings in Mt. Talinis that are likely related to the power plant expansion.
EDC’s recent statement on the issue indicated that they are open to dialogue with 350 Pilipinas and other stakeholders. If it this so, why would they require that the dialogue be held at the EDC office? If EDC is sincere enough, the dialogue should take place in the communities affected by the project themselves, or at the very least in a public venue. This will also ensure that the concerns of the communities will be heard by EDC and DENR.
Contrary to EDC’s claim that our colleagues from 350 Pilipinas are being selective and silent on other environmental issues such as increasing rise of coal plants, they have already proven their track record on being in the frontline on the struggle against dirty coal. They are one of the organizers in the recent mobilization of thousands of citizens in opposing the proposed and operational power plants in the province of Batangas.
While we advocate for the development of more renewable sources of energy like geothermal plants, such projects should respect the rights of the communities and ensure the protection of our ecosystems, particularly critical biodiverse areas such as Mt. Talinis. Proponents of such projects should treat local communities and enviromental advocates as partners and not as adversaries.
Kalikasan PNE reiterates its steadfast support to the struggle of the people of Negros in defending their environment and protecting their ecosystem.
No to the expansion of EDC’s geothermal plant! Save Mt. Talinis!