Screen captured from GMA News Report
Protect VIP, a broad coalition formed to advocate for the Verde Island Passage, on Saturday said that the collapse of the Batangas-Tabangao-Ilijan-Lobo road on Sunday, November 27 due to the construction of the integrated liquified natural gas (LNG) import terminal project of Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific International Holdings (AG&P) Ilijan, Batangas, is a sample of what LNG projects can do to the environment and the lack of transparency of project proponents in dealing with the damage they cause.
Balitang Southern Tagalog of GMA Regional TV reported the road collapse on Tuesday, November 29, featuring a video apparently taken from within the construction site which showed seawater gushing in under the road. The report did not identify the company but quoted the Department of Public Works and Highways Batangas 2nd Engineering District Office attributing the incident to the loss of support for the road due to the digging activities of the said company.
“If we cannot trust them to implement proper construction protocols, how can we trust these same companies not to shirk safety and environmental protocols once the terminal is operational? We have long said that having so many LNG tankers in the Verde Island Passage presents safety and environmental risks. This incident only proves that even the terminal itself is a big risk to the livelihood of the people in the area and the environment - we don’t have to wait for it to be fully operational or for tankers to start coming to check for or confirm adverse impacts,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP Convenor.
The terminal under construction is planned to provide LNG to the Ilijan power plant of San Miguel Corporation (SMC). Protect VIP pointed out that both the terminal and the power plant have been a issued cease and desist order (CDO) by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in August due to premature land conversion.
“If the road collapse happened because they are continuing with construction activities, then this is in direct violation of the CDO. DAR should hold the companies in contempt and mete out penalties. They had the gall to continue construction, and to do it so sloppily that they destroyed a road. They are disrespecting the will of the community, the welfare of the people, the purity of the environment, and now, the implementation of our laws,” said Gariguez.
Gariguez also condemned the lack of information on the incident.
“It has been a week since the road collapsed, yet aside from the report of GMA, we were unable to find further mentions in mass media. Even members of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (BMB) in the area only knew that a detour exists, but not the cause. It is only right that the people of Batangas know about incidents like this because it concerns our safety and affects our day-to-day life. We only found out about it much later as the news spread by word of mouth and we came across evidence that it was indeed AG&P’s project which dug under the road and caused the collapse,” said Gariguez.
The environmental advocate also condemned DPWH’s Batangas 2nd District Engineering Office for its silence on the matter.
“A national road collapsed, causing grave damage to the livelihood of people in the area, yet the DPWH said nothing. We are concerned that instrumentalities of the government seem willing to turn a blind eye to disasters caused by LNG projects and are willing participants in a media blackout. The Filipino people deserve better,” said Gariguez.