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Advocates urge DOE to prioritize environment, communities in power planning

Protect VIP

Protect VIP, a network of communities and groups advocating for the protection of the Verde Island Passage (VIP) marine corridor, on Friday urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to take caution on the potential social and environmental impacts of the expansion of power generation projects in the marine biodiversity hotspot.

The DOE reportedly cleared 175 power generation projects to conduct system impact studies (SIS) in 2023, the biggest of which is Vind Energy Corporation’s 3,038-megawatt (MW) NOM FL1 offshore wind farm in Batangas and Occidental Mindoro.

“We welcome steps that the government is taking to advance renewable energy in the country in the face of the climate crisis. But we note that the energy transition needs not come at the expense of key biodiversity hotspots and the communities residing in them. It would also be against our climate interests to expand our RE potential without taking into account the risk of increasing our vulnerabilities if marine and coastal environments are not protected. The DoE should be meticulous in their impact studies and screening of proposed projects,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP Lead convenor.

A study released by Berlin-based global science policy institute Climate Analytics in 2023 reported that the country has the potential to shift to a 100% renewable energy-based power sector while keeping key biodiversity and protected areas away from potential impacts. DOE’s list of power generation projects endorsed to undertake SIS from last year included 13 wind and solar projects totaling nearly 7,000 MW in VIP provinces.

“We have already witnessed the decline in fish catch in areas near the fleet of existing and new gas facilities in Batangas City, and a massive pipeline of additional gas projects is also in the works. We implore the DOE to scrutinize impacts of such developments including water contamination, noise pollution, bird strikes, and increased turbidity of coastal waters during construction that energy projects of this scale can affect the waters of VIP and its communities,” Gariguez added.

Gerry Arances, Executive Director of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) and co-convenor of Protect VIP, underscored that the deployment of energy transition should be in the best interest of the people and the environment.

“The imperative of the energy transition is, in the first place, to benefit the people and the environment. The country’s shift to a power sector fully powered by renewables can be designed in a manner that prevents potential repercussions while facilitating the empowerment of communities and preservation of critical ecosystems – such as through developing decentralized and community-based renewables,” Arances said.

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