Monday, January 27, 2014

Sorsogon diocese nixes geothermal energy initiative

Bulusan Lake, Bulusan Volcano National Park, Sorsogon
Bulusan Lake, Bulusan Volcano National Park, Sorsogon
(PHOTO: CBCP NEWS/OLIVER SAMSON)
SORSOGON—The Church here slammed initiatives to develop geothermal energy sources in the province.

Diocese Media Relation Officer Rev. Fr. Bong Imperial recently made public the local church’s firm position against a company which seeks to explore geothermal energy generation.

In 2010, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded an initial permit to Summa Kumagai Inc. (SKI) to commence geothermal explorations in the province.

The move, however, was temporarily halted, because of protests from self-proclaimed environmentalists.

Imperial, in a recent statement, reiterated the negative impact of geothermal energy generation in Sorsogon.

He cited the case of Tiwi, Albay, where the detriments of such geothermal energy supposedly use outweighed its benefits.

Imperial underscored, for instance, the possible water shortage that may occur in farming-dependent host communities due to the energy initiative.

The media relation officer also said that the geothermal plant will not ensure lower power rates in Sorsogon.

As an example, he noted that the Bac-Man power plant at the border of Sorsogon and Albay was ineffectual in decreasing the power rates. Albay even suffered from a power crisis, despite the presence of said plant.

Imperial further mentioned that the geothermal power plant may affect tourism in the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park. Its hot and cold springs, which are frequented by tourists, may dry out because of the new plant, according to Imperial.

Protests

The sentiment of the diocese is echoed by an organization called the Irosin Coalition Against Geothermal (ICAG).

Headed by Dr. Precy D. Gante, the group announced in December that it was planning to conduct more protests against the new power plant.

On December 20, the group along with other self-proclaimed environmentalists, held a motorcade from Barangay Abuyog to Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Sorsogon City to voice out their opposition.

Welcome opinions

Meanwhile, SKI President and CEO Alberto D. Altura issued a statement last month that expressed the firm's desire to conduct a dialogue with the protesters in the presence of international organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

In response to the protests, Altura said that their company welcomes the opinion of the locals, which he insists is part of their freedom of expression.

However, he urges the protesters, and even the national and international community to hear their side, as well.

Altura emphasized that the WWF approves the use of geothermal energy in other parts of the world.

The geothermal energy deposits in Bulusan Volcano, he says, could provide some 40 megawatts of power reliable power.

Unlike many other sources of energy today, the CEO stressed that geothermal energy is clean and renewable, and has thus been enjoying the support of environmentalists.

SKI in 2010 was granted a five-year contract to explore geothermal energy production in 25,959 hectares of land. The contract covered areas in the municipalities of Irosin, Juban, Gubat, Barcelona, Casiguran, Barcelona, and Bulusan.
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