The Southern Negros Geothermal Project of the Energy Development Corporation operates within the Palinpinon-Okoy watershed areas, and outside of Mt Talinis and the twin Lakes of Balinsasayao of Sibulan town, Negros Oriental, EDC-SNGP manager Dwight Maxino said yesterday.
Maxino said this before the Sangguniang Bayan of Valencia because of apprehensions of environmental groups about the issuance of a tree-cutting permit for the Nasulo project of the EDC by the DENR.
He said the company complements its operations with a comprehensive water management and community partnerships program, forest restoration, upland community management, forest protection, biodiversity conservation and monitoring, health promotions, education, livelihood development and community environment in its concern to save Mt. Talinis from further denudation.
Environmentalists are concerned over the effects of tree-cutting on biodiversity and water supply, and the road construction in these areas that have been declared a natural park, that they believe, facilitated commercial logging and kaingin in the forestal areas, including the proliferation of illegal settlers.
The groups want the preservation of priority areas and key biodiversity conservation sites due to high endemism and the severity of threats. Old growth forest still surrounds the peak of Mt Talinis in Cuernos de Negros and lakes, covering an area of about 4,800 hectares, with 102 species of birds, 24 mammals and 68 amphibians. About 50 percent of these species are endemic and 16 classified as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The EDC said that in the past 23 years, forest cover in its reservation areas has increased considerably due to programs designed to restore denuded forests. In fact, the large remaining forests in the province are in the EDC reservation areas, Maxino said.
He also said the company invested more than P93 million in health, education, livelihood and environment projects and programs in the communities surrounding the reservation areas, and more than P60 million in environmental protection.
The Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Office said not only EDC was issued a permit to cut trees, but also individuals with agreements with the agency.
PENRO officer Charlie Fabre said tree-cutting permits were issued recently to retired Col. Juan Tiempo, a holder of an Industrial Forest Management Agreement with the DENR, to plant acacia mangiums in an 850-hectare lot in Tayawan, Bayawan City.
Fabre said the tree-cutting permit of the EDC is allowed by the DENR on a special basis, as among the exemptions due to forecasted shortage of power in 2015, where the Nasulo project can contribute an additional 25 megawatts of power in the Visayas grid.
The inauguration of the Nasulo project in Puhagan, Valencia will be held tomorrow, and expected to attended is Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla.*JG
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