Local stakeholders and advocates led by ProtectVIP (Verde Island Passage), Bukluran ng mga Mangingisda sa Batangas (BMB), Caritas Philippines, and Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) on Friday filed a complaint 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.
AG&P-Linseed is building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal facility in Batangas City, and SMC-EERI is constructing a 1.75 GW LNG power plant in the same vicinity. Both projects threaten the biodiversity of the Verde Island Passage and the livelihoods of the people who depend on it.
“In their quest to bring their LNG facilities online, we are highly concerned about how SMC-EERI and AG&P-Linseed treat rules, regulations, and laws concerning environmental protection. We fear that such attitude will be carried over to the detriment of the VIP if ever the facilities start operating,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Lead Convenor of ProtectVIP.
The complaint cited three violations – the companies’ continued construction despite failure to secure coconut tree-cutting permits from the Philippine Coconut Authority; failure to secure tree-cutting permits from DENR; and failure to secure a land conversion order from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), which would warrant the cancelation of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the projects. DAR issued a cease-and-desist order against SMC-EERI and AG&P-Linseed on August 8, 2022 for the companies’ violation.
“We don’t need gas for electricity. It will only drive up the cost of bills for Filipinos, poison the environment, and threaten the beauty of the VIP and the food and livelihood of many who depend on it. There is no reason that will justify the means or ends of these two companies. We ask that DENR promptly act on our complaint and cancel the ECCs to avoid further damage to the area,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of CEED and co-convenor of ProtectVIP.
Batangas is at the forefront of the expansion of LNG in the country, with 15 LNG projects underway or being proposed, despite the danger posed by the fossil fuel to the delicate ecology of the Verde Island Passage.
“SMC-EERI and AG&P-Linseed are the primary example of His Holiness Pope Francis’ warning about profits at the expense of the environment. This project will enrich their investors, who are based far away but drive our fisherfolk and those who work in the tourism industry to poverty,” said Fr. Gariguez.