Immediately following election day 2022, environmentalists, youth, people’s organizations, and San Carlos prelate Bishop Gerry Alminaza called on the city’s incumbent mayor Renato Gustilo to be true to his pledge to ‘work towards thriving and prosperous coastal communities’ by putting his foot down against a liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant proposed by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) owned Reliance Energy Development, Inc.(REDI-SMC).
Gustilo, who ran unopposed in local polls, was recently awarded by international conservation organization RARE as among 500 coastal leaders from different countries working to support ‘healthy and sustainable fishing communities.’
In a letter marked March 9, the group said “the people of San Carlos City are in dire need of strong leadership that recognizes and protects the importance of healthy and sustainable fishing communities…Unfortunately, San Carlos residents are currently facing many threats to their coastal resources and livelihoods, most concerning among which is the 300 MW LNG plant proposed by REDI-SMC.”
The planned fossil fuel power plant is located in the San Carlos Ecozone facing Tañon Strait, a body of water separating Negros and Cebu which houses thriving marine life including commercial fish, dolphins, and whales. The groups warn that the project, if built, will generate increased shipping traffic and emissions, destroy marine habitats, mangroves, and wetlands along the shoreline, generate pollution, and expose local communities to various hazards.
“We congratulate Mayor Gustilo for being recognized as a government leader embodying care for Creation. We urge him to go further by cementing a legacy of protecting our coasts and coastal communities through rejecting REDI-SMC’s LNG power plant, which will drain life from the Tañon Strait, harm his constituents, and take away the livelihood of fisherfolk. This is a moral decision we expect him to make with utmost sincerity and urgency,” said Bishop Gerry Alminaza, who is also the convenor of local clean energy advocacy group REpower Negros.
The letter is signed by local stakeholders and supporting organizations including Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH), Tañon Strait Fisherfolk Federation, Lapayran People’s Organization of Bantayan, Cebu, Oceana Philippines, Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), and Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).
“We invite you to stand in solidarity with the residents of San Carlos and all concerned groups in protecting Tañon Strait, promoting healthy and sustainable fishing communities, and maintaining San Carlos as fossil-free,” the groups wrote.