Local stakeholders and advocates led by Protect VIP, a coalition advocating the protection of the Verde Island Passage, appealed to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to probe the environmental impacts brought by the growing development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in Batangas, one of the five provinces surrounding the Verde Island Passage.
This appeal comes after DENR’s order to suspend all reclamation projects in Manila Bay which Protect VIP heralded and now urges the DENR to afford the same scrutiny to the fossil gas boom along the VIP.
“We have been raising the alarm on LNG in VIP since 2021 and in fact have been very hopeful of Sec. Yulo’s leadership when she assumed the position given her background. But after five operational gas projects, numerous complaints filed to DENR, and one devastating oil spill, we are yet to be granted a dialogue with her. We wonder what it takes for Sec. Yulo to look in our direction,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, Lead Convenor of Protect VIP.
Gariguez refers to a complaint filed last year against San Miguel Corporation subsidiary Excellent Energy Resources, Inc. (SMC-EERI) and Linseed Field Corporation with Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Company (AG&P-Linseed) before the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-EMB) over the companies’ violation of environmental laws.
The group also filed a complaint with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) over the illegal or premature conversion of landholdings of SMC-EERI and AG&P-Linseed to which DAR issued a cease-and-desist order but the projects continued despite such an order.
“San Miguel Corporation, whose P740-billion aerotropolis project is being questioned for its possible role in worsening the flooding in Bulacan, is also behind the EERI 1.75 GW LNG power plant that is currently wreaking havoc in Batangas and VIP. We have repeatedly asked Sec. Yulo’s office to act on our complaints and cancel the environmental compliance certificates (ECC) of said projects given DAR’s recognition of illegal activities going on. With 8 more gas plants in the pipeline, we urge Sec. Yulo to take action before Batangas becomes an unrecognizable terrain of tractors like how Manila Bay is right now,” added Gerry Arances, co-convenor of Protect VIP and Executive Director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development.
Gariguez also added that the suspension of reclamation in Manila Bay is a significant move by the Marcos administration that should be cascaded to LNG projects in VIP that inflict harm to our marine ecosystems.
“We hope that in halting Manila Bay reclamation, the administration would also consider reevaluating the existing and proposed fossil gas developments in the vicinity of the VIP that involve land reclamation, displacement of fisherfolks and coastal communities, and irreversible damage of marine ecosystems. Manila Bay and the Verde Island Passage are globally significant and locally nourish the livelihoods of millions of Filipinos. The protection of both means the protection of all,” added Gariguez.