Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
Dear Ma’am Gina,
We extend our greetings and solidarity to you as the new DENR Secretary. We are glad that someone leading DENR has a consistent track record against mining and coal. We hope you will continue to exhibit such boldness within DENR specially in protecting our last remaining natural forest at Cuernos de Negros.
Energy Development Corporation’s (EDC) latest expansion destroyed 576 natural old growth trees at Cuernos de Negros. And yet again they are proposing another expansion covering the area of 5,163 hectares at Cuernos de Negros. This will add 60 MW in their total steam field capacity including new 43 wells (production and injection wells), 11 well pads, new pipelines and corridors (roads), additional Fluid Collection and Reinjection System (FCRS) and additional support and temporary facilities.
We have presented more than 3000 petition signatures to DENR last April 6, 2016 for the non-issuance of ECC (Environmental Compliance Certificate) to Energy Development Corporation- Southern Negros Geothermal Project (EDC-SNGP) proposed expansion. We write to ask you the same—please do not allow our last natural forest cover be exploited by EDC-SNGP with of the following reasons:
1) EDC’s Proposed Development Block is Within a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA)
Environmental Performance Report and Management Plan (EPRMP) submitted to DENR dated April 2016 stating that ‘their development block lies within Cuernos de Negros, which is a recognized KBA (Key Biodiversity Area) in the Philippines (DENR, 2006).
Cuernos de Negros has been identified as one of the top on the list of conservation priority areas due to its high endemism and severity of threats. Old growth forest surrounds the peak and lakes covering an area of about 4800 hectares. About 3000 hectares is classified as close natural forest while about 1800 hectares is secondary natural forest.
The identification of KBA’s by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation International Philippines, and Haribon Foundation includes no less than the Cuernos de Negros which traverses the municipalities of San Jose, Sibulan, Valencia, Dauin, Zamboanguita, Sta. Catalina, Pamplona, and Amlan. This encompasses an area spanning 23,565 ha. This status is revalidated in the recent 2015 Biodiversity Assessment and Planning for High Conservation Value Areas (HCVA) in Southern Negros conducted by CCI (formerly FFI).
2) Cuernos de Negros Holds our Last 1% Natural Forest
The remaining forest at Cuernos de Negros is the remaining 1% natural forest in Negros Oriental. It is not only a habitat to wildlife but also serves as water source for the entire southern part of Negros. EDC-Southern Negros Geothermal Project’s (SNGP) ongoing operations and proposed expansion are within Cuernos de Negros.
In 2013 under DENR’s watch, 576 trees were cut to give way to EDC’s geothermal expansion. Another expansion within their proposed development block of 5,163 hectares awaits DENR’s Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). The proposed development block of 5,163 hectares already covers both existing and proposed facilities for expansion.
As replacement of the cut trees, EDC commits to replace 100 seedlings for every tree cut under their BINHI Project of 10M in 10 years. However, it should be noted that the ecological services rendered by a full-grown tree is way far beyond the combined ecological services of 100 seedlings. Further, the loss of these full grown trees leads to the eventual displacement and possible demise of biodiversity in the area.
3) No Full Disclosure on Development Plans
There is no full disclosure of the parameters of engagement, to mention the equity of the community where EDC is investing 27 Billion. The enormity of the investment alarmed us on the extent of its impact to the environment and to the people around the geothermal plants as well as those far but will be affected because of the vast extent of Mt. Talinis’ reach.
We know geothermal energy is identified as a renewable energy source but extensive development will make Mt. Talinis suffer in the future and that will include us the present generation and the generations yet unborn.
Moreover, EDC is applying an ECC for an already on-going economic undertaking. While EDC has not yet addressed their first expansion issues involving the cutting of 576 trees, here comes the second one seeking to apply for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) that is also inside the aforementioned development block.
Your words Madam Secretary resonates our very intent why we need to protect our last remaining forest-- “biodiversity holds pre-eminent value. Reforestation does not replicate an ecological system. No amount of planting trees will bring biodiversity back.”
We hereby resubmit our opposition to the issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to EDC-SNGP’s 5,163 hectares development block at Cuernos de Negros—one of the biodiversity corridors in the Philippines.
Please join us save Negros Oriental’s last frontier.