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SMC, MPIC, Aboitiz told: to help protect Verde Island Passage, stop building gas facilities

Protect VIP, a network of civil society, communities, and people’s organizations advocating for the protection of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), raised concern over the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by three of the country’s developers of fossil gas – Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV), the Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), and San Miguel Corporation (SMC) with the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), reportedly to help conserve the critically biodiverse marine corridor.

The VIP is known as the “center of the center” of marine shore fish biodiversity in the world, and is dubbed as the Amazon of the oceans. Protect VIP has been actively raising alarm over the massive development of fossil gas facilities in Batangas, which comprises a part of the VIP, of which the three companies are also proponents of.

“There is no reason not to welcome efforts seeking to preserve the Verde Island Passage, which supports millions of Filipinos with their sustenance and livelihood. But MPIC, SMC, and Aboitiz cannot blame us if we raise questions over the sincerity of this MOU, considering their fossil gas business is one of the worst risks confronting the VIP today. By building more fossil gas power plants in the VIP, it is exposing the marine corridor and adjacent communities to pollution, biodiversity and livelihood disruption, and exacerbated effects of the climate crisis,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of sustainability think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), a co-convenor of Protect VIP.

5 of 6 existing fossil gas facilities, 4 of 7 proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and 9 of 39 gas power plants proposed in the Philippines are located in Batangas. The three companies also recently signed a $3.3-billion energy deal for the completion and operation of the 1,750 MW Excellent Energy Resources, Inc. LNG power plant, set to be the first LNG plant to operate in the country targeting commencement before the end of 2024.

“If SMC, AEV, and MPIC are genuine in their “joint stewardship”, building a multibillion gas project that would only bring harm to the VIP shouldn’t push through in the first place. These three conglomerates can show their sincerity in protecting the VIP by stopping their fossil gas expansion plans, prioritizing instead the development of clean energy from renewables and helping contribute to building the resilience of marine and coastal biodiversity and communities,” Arances said.

Meanwhile, policy directions that would genuinely help eliminate risks to the VIP should be the priority of DENR and DOE, the group said.

“The DENR is already advocating for the inclusion of the VIP in the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems. Prioritizing this would be the best course of action for the DENR to be true to its mandate of protecting the environment. The DOE, meanwhile, can help protect the VIP by ending its reckless endorsement and promotion of fossil gas and other destructive energy sources,” said Arances.



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