Protect VIP Network, a coalition of environmentalists, local communities, fisherfolk, and other concerned citizens advocating for the preservation of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), on Thursday walked out of the public hearing for Ayala Group’s 1,100-megawatt (MW) combined cycle gas plant in Batangas.
The plant, to be built in Barangays Libjo and Matalim in Batangas City, is a project of Batangas Clean Energy (BCE), a joint venture of the Ayala Group together with the New York Stock Exchange-listed Blackstone. It is projected to start construction in June.
“ACEN Corporation of the Ayala Group declared its commitment to renewables, even aspiring to be the biggest listed renewable platform in Southeast Asia, as mentioned on its website. We don’t understand how a company with a net-zero commitment will pursue such a project when according to a study by Climate Analytics, a 1.5 pathway for the power sector necessitates reducing the share of natural gas in the national installed capacity by 6 to 7 % percent by 2035,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Convenor of Protect VIP.
ACEN Corporation is the energy platform of the Ayala Group and has a stake in ENEX Energy, the partner of Blackstone in the BCE venture. Its website declares its aim to be the biggest platform for renewables in the Southeast Asian region, and the Ayala Group has also previously stated its intention to divest its interests in coal projects in the country.
“VIP is a fragile ecosystem that nevertheless supports the livelihood of over 2 million people in the provinces of Batangas, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Romblon, and Marinduque. It is the center of the center of biodiversity and a protected area that will be threatened by the transit of LNG carriers and the pollution from natural gas plants. The proposed project uses natural gas, a fossil fuel that is neither environment-friendly nor renewable,” said Fr. Michael Flores, Director of the Archdiocese Ministry of the Environment (AMEN) of the Archdiocese of Lipa.
Natural gas, also called fossil gas, is touted by proponents as cleaner than coal due to its lower emissions of carbon dioxide. However, it instead produces methane, another greenhouse gas whose impact is greater than carbon dioxide in accelerating global warming when measured in a short time scale.
“Science and economics do not support the continued building of fossil fuel plants anywhere in the country. Natural gas not only aggravates the climate emergency, it also worsens the burden in Filipino’s pockets. Let’s not forget that expensive and imported LNG costs are passed on to consumers reflected by the rising electricity prices. What we need is more investment in renewable energy for the climate and energy security of the country,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).