Sorsogon Bishop makes official stand on geothermal issues

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Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said that he did not observe teenage pregnancy in his dioceses. Photo by Dennis Dayao
Most Rev. Arturo M. Bastes, Bishop Diocese of Sorsogon. Photo by Dennis Dayao

By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.

SORSGON CITY (BicolToday.com/26 Dec. 2011) – As head of the Roman Catholic hierarchy here in Sorsogon, Bishop Arturo Bastes issued a pastoral letter taking to tasked people who are oblivious of the ill effects of the continued destruction of the environment now fronted as development. The pastoral letter was read in the pulpit province wide coinciding the last day of the celebration of the traditional Misa de Gallo imprinting a question for the conscience that people suffered and bear the brunt of destructiveness of nature because of the cover-ups couched as “development”.

The outspoken bishop who lends his stature and voice in environmental issues carried the torch of hope that in the pastoral letter he clarified the diocesan position that man should work towards the harmony of nature, not on the utter destruction of the latter. The evident concern of years past are now seen because of the neglect in understanding the limits of available resources, and of the need to respect the integrity and the cycles of nature should be considered in planning for development. What were seen by the Church are reasons of demagogic ideas sacrificing the intent of God’ will of the human family to protect the environment.

Elaborating Bastes lectured provincial policy planners when he said “The first consideration is the appropriateness of acquiring a growing awareness of the fact that one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate – animals, plants, the natural elements – simply as one wishes, according to one’s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the cosmos.

The second consideration is based on the realization – which is perhaps more urgent – that natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their activity not only for the present generation but above all for the generations to come.

The third consideration refers directly to the consequences of a certain type of development on the quality of life in the industrialized zones. We all know that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious consequences for the health of the population. But not to be construed as anti-development , the Prelate argued that the Church stand for the sustainability of the earth and all that dwells therein. With it, the official position of the Diocese of Sorsogon is made known.

Trending the viral concerns of the Pastoral Letter it said; As Sorsoganon:

  1.  The BACMAN-EDC Geothermal operation in the province of Sorsogon, according to the affected communities, caused irreparable damage to the people, community and environment.  Their research substantiated their claim of negative impacts such as decline in their agricultural yields, occurrence of skin diseases in the children, contamination of the Cawayan River and Foul sulfuric smell in particular areas.
  2. The threat of SKI geothermal project in the five towns (Bulusan-Irosin-Juban-Barcelona-Casiguran) in Sorsogon reverberate same apprehensions of duplicating the negative impacts of geothermal, sadly to the most important areas of the province.  The target areas are known to be agricultural with vast water reserves, tourist destinations for its hot and fresh water resorts, the last rainforest frontier in the province, and particularly the rice basket of Sorsogon.  To illustrate:
    1. Water and Tourism.  It is a public knowledge that geothermal operation is directly dependent on water.  It has been proven that areas of geothermal operations exhibited decline in the water level thus affected the agricultural production.  More so with the water-driven tourist destinations (hot and cold resorts), it will also be affected by the geothermal operations.  It will kill the tourism based-economy and displace the people.
    2. Health and Pollution.  It is also part of the any geologic activity that heavy metals are released in the open environment, Arsenic and Mercury to cite a few.  Silica is also known to be used in the drilling.  The topographical nature of Bulusan, its height and vast water reserves, poisoning and related health hazards can never be removed from the equation of safety of the people especially the health.  The province has a record of having heavy rains throughout the year, thus pollutants will easily be carried by the current of water from the mountain to the body of water in the lowland areas especially the communities.
    3. Seismicity.  The target source of thermal energy is an active volcano and based on the geologic studies, there are towns at risk or even within the old crater of Mt. Bulusan, the town of Irosin.  Throughout the year, the volcano has been erupting.  Geothermal operation as such with its induced seismicity could lead to a catastrophic destruction as recorded in New Zealand.
    4. Agriculture-based Economy.  The target towns especially Irosin which is the rice granary of the province are agricultural.  The lives of the people are totally dependent on it, thus decline of water supply will definitely affect the productions.  It has been proven in the Tiwi and Laguna (geothermal in the community) experiences that the Hydro sulphide emissions from the plant reduces the output or agricultural yields.  It will bring more poverty as the people will be displaced economically.
    5. Last Forest Frontier.  Sorsogon lies within the typhoon belt of the region.  It will be of greater disadvantage for the people if the remaining rainforest will be destroyed by the geothermal operation.  Definitely, with the fumes and noise from the geothermal plant, excluding its toxic waste, the rich biodiversity in the Mt. Bulusan will vanish or be affected.

The Church Prince continued, needless to say, the negative impacts of the geothermal project far outweigh its supposed gains, be it at the national or local level. The geothermal project will bring further poverty to the province, environmental destruction and constant threat of catastrophic malady.

Such strong word comes on the heels of the see-saw attitude of the provincial leadership not only in geothermal concerns but it goes as far as mining, quarrying and illegal loggings. This is again a no no to the policy planners of Sorsogon province for in destroying the environment, though not plainly said in the pastoral letter, money pours like rain which is a common knowledge for people suppose to protect are the thieves themselves. BicolToday.com

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2 COMMENTS

  1. This bishop should just stick to religious matters and not engage in fear-mongering. Has he even considered that the staunch opposition of the catholic church to population control would have contributed more to environmental degradation compared to the relatively small footprints of these energy projects?

    Bicol region needs energy, jobs, investments. Everything has positive and negative impacts and I suppose to be populist, the bishop has to focus on negative impacts of geothermal energy which by the way can easily be mitigated. Why not focus on the positives: geothermal is a non-fossil fuel type of energy, relatively clean, generates jobs and skills and is good for the economy.

    The Bicol region has geothermal energy- why not use it? Not all places in the world has that opportunity.

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