Mayor Edgar Teves of Valencia, Negros Oriental, is proposing another public hearing on a larger scale on the proposed 60-megawatt geothermal power expansion project of the Energy Development Corporation.
Teves said yesterday the planned public consultation would have to be after this month because of the town's upcoming fiesta celebration on October 12.
The public hearing will be for a larger audience this time, to get a clearer perspective and consensus of the Valencia residents on the proposal of the EDC to expand its geothermal power production by 60MW at its existing Palinpinon geothermal plants.
The proposed project has met with a lot of opposition from civil society organizations that are clamoring against acts that they say would destroy Mt. Talinis, such as the cutting of trees by EDC to pave the way for additional access roads.
On Saturday, about 20 members and representatives of the Kinaiyahan and 350 Pilipinas were present, alongside Teves, the media, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and an environmental expert, among others, for a site visit and briefing at the EDC's Southern Negros Geothermal Project in Valencia.
During a briefing before the site visit, Mayor Teves became exasperated and even raised his voice a bit following a question from a member of the opposing groups regarding a previous public consultation.
Teves stressed it was unfair to describe that public gathering as not genuine.
Apparently piqued by the question from the lady, Teves demanded straight answers from the groups and challenged them to another public consultation with a bigger representation from all the barangays of Valencia.
Teves was irked when a member of the so-called “Kinaiyahan” group commented that the public hearing in March this year at the Vega gymnasium in Valencia was not genuine, and that attendees are pre-positioned, just to promote and to immediately endorse the project instead of asking questions.
The groups acquiesced to Teves' proposal.
Zeph Repollo of 350 Pilipinas welcomed the suggestion of Teves even as they await the action to be taken by the DENR on this matter. She said up to now, they have not received any invitation from the DENR.
She thanked DENR Secretary Gina Lopez for accommodating their concerns but she said they still have to collate some data and information gathered during the site visit and will issue another press statement later.
Repollo said there will be another site visit to the proposed areas for expansion due to limited time Saturday.
Meanwhile, Repollo clarified that the environmental groups represented in Saturday's site visit were under the federated Kinaiyahan.
But, another group, Save Mt. Talinis, that is also a strong critique of EDC, was not represented during the weekend activity.
Repollo explained that they are separate from the Save Mt. Talinis movement but she did not elaborate when asked if they shared the same sentiments and objectives.
Meanwhile, SNGP-EDC senior manager Vicente Omandam said the proposed expansion project is within the 5,163 hectares existing development area and that the expansion is in terms of capacity, from 222.5 megawatts to 280.5 megawatts.
He said the application for additional 60-megawatt of power was a result of studies and projections that in late 2018 there will be a shortage of reliable base load power.
As to fears raised by Repollo, there is no stopping EDC to apply for another expansion in the years to come. Omandam said reservoirs have certain limits.
As to the impact, the last 34 years that they have been operating in that area is enough proof of good management and that the forest growth is even increasing compared to that outside of the reservation area.
Omandam again stressed that until today, EDC has not yet receive an Environment Compliance Certificate from the DENR.
EDC added they have already complied with all the requirements for an ECC application.*JFP/JG
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