By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.
TIWI, Albay (BicolToday.com/18-April-2012) – The failure of the information education campaign to solicit grassroot support for its geothermal exploration project in the towns of Bulusan, Irosin, Juban, Casiguran and Barcerlona in Sorsogon province was not a total defeat for the project proponent.
This was evident when officials of affected barangays visited the Aboitiz Power Plant in Barangay Cale, Tiwi, Albay under the auspices of Summa Kumagai Geothermal Inc. and the Department of Energy. The visit hope to achieve less opposition in the target barangays of the six municipalities subject of the exploratory works for renewable energy sources as programmed by DOE for the country to have a sufficient energy supply by year 2030.
The new tack of DOE and its exploratory partner was timed when there was an issue of power shortage in Mindanao region which has put in the limelight the need to explore other energy sources which is the clean renewable geothermal energy supply against coal fired power plants which are hazardous and pollutants in nature.
Officials of Barangay Mapaso, Bolos, Patag, Tinampo, Monbon and Cogon of Irosin town and the official of Barangay Bacolod, Puting Sapa, Catanusan, Buraburan, Bagsangan, Rangas, Aroroy and Anog in Juban toured the facility on April 10 and witnessed the actual operation of the geothermal plant.
The lecture focused on the hazardous management program of the power plant and emphasized that environmental regulations are observed seriously at the 5,084 service area out of the 7,661 hectares reserved for geothermal activities.
Oscar Gilpa, barangay chair of Bagsangan and ABC president of Irosin said that there seems to be a disinformation regarding the geothermal exploration issue as espoused by the progressive groups opposing the project. He said that they will be inviting the SKGI and DOE during their barangay assembly so that his constituents will be properly educated about the issue. The same sentiments were echoed by Tinampo barangay kagawad Imelda Loveria.
It was a different view from Kagawad Elma Sambajon of Barangay Catanosan who said there are still so many issues that need to be balance and clarified about geothermal exploratory works. She added that the big question is what comes after the exploration?
That for Barangay chair Nestor Pantua of Monbon, SKGI and DOE must continue this approach, they must invite people and other groups opposing the geothermal project, referring to the group of environmentalist and that of former Irosin Mayor Eddie Dorotan who wrote a letter to the editor of BicolToday.com strongly opposing the entry of geothermal business in the NIPAS area of the province.
Such opposition did not only came from the progressive groups, they have an ally in the provincial board when second district board member Benito Doma authored Resolution No. 39-2012 endorsing the uniform resolutions of the Municipalities of Irosin, Bulusan, Juban and Barcelona all of the second district opposing the geothermal exploration in the NIPAS area. Section 54 of the NIPAS law (R.A.7586) or the National Integrated Protected Area system prohibits geothermal exploratory activities within and around the protected area.
The Resolution was endorsed to Secretary Jose Rene Almendras of the Department of Energy. On the part of SKGI and DOE it did not deter them from exploring other avenues, one of which is the guided tour of selected barangay officials in the power plant of the Aboitiz.
The power plant before it was privitized is the Tiwi Geothermal Plant, the oldest operable geothermal plant in the country. Part of the strategy is to rename the project from Mt. Bulusan Goethermal Project to Southern Bicol Geothermal Project, however with the same operable principles and objectives, to tap the renewable energy source of Mt. Bulusan.
Residents of the area when interviewed but refused to divulged their indentify revealed that during chemical treatment the Aboitiz Power Plant request them to vacate their residences for at least three hours because of intolerable fumes permeating the surrounding area. The power group financially compensates the affected residents during the operation.
The point person of Summa Kumagai Geothermal Inc., Engineer Benjamin Monzon firmly believes that in the near future the negative issues regarding the exploration of geothermal energy in their contracted area will be resolve as what happened in the Mt. Apo Geothermal Project. BicolToday.com
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