Climate and Environment

Groups warn planned gas project threatens already fragile Verde Island Passage

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Groups warn planned gas project threatens already fragile Verde Island Passage
Fisherfolk hold a protest in the waters of Batangas City on April 22, Earth Day to denounce the expansion of fossil gas plants and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the area.
Mara Manuel for Center for Energy, Ecology and Development

MANILA, Philippines — Environmentalists and residents of Batangas province are raising concern over a new liquefied natural gas and hydrogen plant project, one of the eight planned plants that they say would harm the climate and the community.

In a release on Thursday, Protect VIP Network — a coalition of environmentalists, local communities and fisherfolk advocating for the preservation of the Verde Island Passage — said they opposed the 1,100-megawatt combined gas plant in Batangas City.

The plant—to be built in Barangays Libjo and Matalim in Batangas City—is a project of Batangas Clean Energy, a joint venture of the Ayala Group together with the New York Stock Exchange-listed Blackstone Group. The construction is projected to start in June.

Marine biodiversity conservation corridor Verde Island Passage is the epicenter of the country’s LNG expansion. According to the Center for Energy, Environment and Development, the VIP houses five existing gas plants, eight proposed LNG plants, and seven new LNG terminals.

Environmental and clean energy groups, and local communities said the VIP will be threatened by the transit of LNG carriers and the pollution from natural gas plants.

"VIP is a fragile ecosystem that nevertheless supports the livelihood of over two million people in the provinces of Batangas, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Romblon, and Marinduque," said Fr. Michael Flores, director of the Archdiocese Ministry of the Environment of the Archdiocese of Lipa.

Those opposed to the project called on the Ayala Group to walk its talk on renewables. ACEN, the group’s renewable energy developer, aims to be the largest listed renewables platform in Southeast Asia.

"We don’t understand how a company with a net-zero commitment will pursue such a project when according to a study by Climate Analytics, a 1.5°C pathway for the power sector necessitates reducing the share of natural gas in the national installed capacity by 6 to 7 percent by 2035," said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, convenor of Protect VIP.

Natural gas, also called fossil gas, is touted by proponents as cleaner than coal due to its lower carbon dioxide emissions. But the extraction, transportation, liquefaction, and regasification of the gas produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Its capacity to trap heat is 80 times more than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. 

"Science and economics do not support the continued building of fossil fuel plants anywhere in the country. Natural gas not only aggravates the climate emergency, it also worsens the burden in Filipino’s pockets," said Gerry Arances, executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).

"What we need is more investment in renewable energy for the climate and energy security of the country," he added.

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