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Friday, June 14, 2024

Batangas officials debunk claims by NGO CEED

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Say LNG operations in Ilijan plant have been in the province for decades

Local officials in Batangas province have refuted claims by a non-government organization (NGO) about the supposed negative environmental impacts of the Ilijan Natural Gas Plant and its upcoming expansion.

They emphasized the power facility’s long and beneficial presence in the province, with no record of environmental violations or harm to the local ecosystem and marine biodiversity, in its more than 20 years of operation.

This was after the Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Batangas passed a unanimous resolution stating that the allegations made by the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) in opposing LNG projects in the area are “baseless, misleading, and also do not reflect the true sentiments” of its constituents.

CEED has been actively campaigning against San Miguel Global Power, which took ownership of the Ilijan plant only in July 2022, and its expansion of the facility. The expansion is aligned with the country’s overall power needs and supply security goals, and is part of a larger effort to utilize cleaner alternatives to coal, as part of a responsible transition to cleaner energy sources.

CEED also recently released a report titled “Will San Miguel Corporation power a world made better? A report scoping the energy transition direction of the Philippines’ biggest fossil fuel expansionist.”

The report notes that SMC “accounts for about 17% of the national power mix, with fossil fuels accounting for 87% of this capacity – including 2.9 GW coal and 1.2 GW gas. Having led coal expansion in the past, SMC now stands as the Philippines’ biggest gas expansionist with over 14 GW in the pipeline.”

The Ilijan plant, built and operated by power firm Kepco for more than 20 years, historically accounts for up to 15% of the entire Luzon region’s power needs.

Local leaders underscored that SMGP’s Ilijan operations have continued to comply with environmental regulations while significantly contributing to the local economy. The resolution highlights the importance of both existing and new facilities in driving economic growth in the region.

“Beyond power generation, these facilities – both brownfield and greenfield – have been instrumental in boosting the local economy, creating job opportunities and enhancing the quality of life in Batangas City,” the resolution stated.

As part of government’s Philippines’ Power Development Plan, SMGP is said to be currently expanding the capacity of the power facility in Batangas, to meet the country’s increasing need for reliable and affordable electricity.

LNG is one component of SMGP’s thrust of a diversified energy portfolio, that also includes renewable sources and battery energy storage systems (BESS).

Local officials criticized CEED for its misleading portrayal of SMGP and the LNG project online and in social media, and unrealistically advocates for an immediate switch to 100% renewable energy without a viable, step-by-step plan.

“This approach fails to consider the potential impacts on employment, businesses, energy security, and the country’s technological and infrastructure readiness,” Hon. Armando Lazarte, councilor and chairman of the Batangas City Committee on Environment, Urban Development, Land Use and Zoning, said.

Questions have also been raised about why CEED has been specifically targeting SMC and SMGP and the Ilijan facility only, while it has been silent on other major LNG projects in the country.

LNG is acknowledged worldwide as a cleaner alternative to coal and is a significant part of any energy transition strategy, not to mention an essential source of power for many developed and developing economies.

Among the countries that are the largest users of LNG in Asia — China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Taiwan. It also includes Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Belgium and others in Europe, and the United States of America.

The resolution asserted that LNG, an efficient and eco-friendly alternative to traditional fuels, supports the national goal of diversifying energy sources. This shift from a dependence on coal is seen as a move towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.

“We implore these groups and their financiers to stop misleading Filipinos for their own special interest. Stop using and manipulating our people, our fishermen, and using our environment, for your smear campaigns,” Lazarte said.

He added: ”LNG should not be viewed as the problem. It stands alongside the growing renewable capacity being developed by San Miguel and other power companies. Advocating for an immediate shift to renewables without a well-thought-out plan can be seen as unreasonable and potentially problematic. A balanced approach is essential. LNG plays a pivotal role in ensuring a responsible and reasonable transition to a low carbon future, a transition that safeguards the power security of millions of Filipinos.”

SMGP, in response, reaffirmed its commitment to continue developing cleaner energy options as part of its declared sustainability goal of net zero emissions by 2050, while taking into careful consideration affordability and reliability for ordinary consumers.

It also said it would continue to work closely with the local communities and stakeholders to ensure that the operations of the Ilijan plant continues to be beneficial to both the province and the country.


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