Communities and sectors affected by the proposed ₱3.5 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in Tabangao, Batangas by Shell Energy Philippines Inc. (Shell) walked out in protest of the project’s public hearing on Friday due to the “anomalous” nature of the event.
Protect VIP, a coalition of groups that aim to preserve the environment and communities in the Verde Island Passage (VIP), said that the hearing did not follow the rules set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in its DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2017-15.
“Shell has consistently ignored the clear guidelines set by DAO No. 2017-15 in terms of engaging stakeholders affected by its project. The law defines the minimum stakeholders – the local government unit, national government agencies, non-governmental organizations, people’s organizations, local businesses, indigenous peoples, and local institutions such as the Church, schools, and hospitals. In its IEC, or Information and Education Campaign, Shell only invited one parish which was not even in the barangay that would be most affected, and only two fishermen’s groups. They did not inform the residents of Brgy. Libjo and Malitam, who would be gravely affected by their import terminal,” said Fr. Edu Gariguez, Convenor of Protect VIP.
The walkout was led by members of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (BMB), a member organization of Protect VIP, and other groups. The Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), a sustainability think-tank that provides legal assistance for the group, stayed on to monitor the proceedings.
“Dinadaan kami ng Shell sa golpe de gulat. Walang IEC, walang imbitasyon sa mga paaralan, mangingisda, at mga residente, at walang sampung araw na nakapaskil ang kanilang announcement sa Brgy. Maitam gaya ng hinihingi ng batas. Mukhang gusto lang ng Shell na masabing natupad nila ang kanilang kailangang gawin sang-ayon sa batas, pero labag sa diwa at titik nito,” said Maximo Bayubay, Vice-President for External Affairs of BMB.
Gariguez says that the defective conduct of the IEC and a public hearing is indicative of Shell’s awareness of the public response to their project.
“The Verde Island Passage, which Shell seeks to defile with its polluting LNG terminal, is a center of biodiversity and the lifeblood of communities in Batangas, Mindoro, Romblon, and Masbate. Fisherfolk and tourism sites depend on the natural resources and beauty of this area, which will be affected by the operation of the LNG project. Shell, in acting contrary to the spirit and letter of the law, is effectively saying that they know about the opposition to the project, but they don’t care because of the profits they will make. DENR should put a stop to this and enforce its own rules to the fullest extent on Shell,” said Gerry Arances, CEED Executive Director and Protect VIP co-convenor.