Three major energy companies sign ‘VIP’ deal; cynical green groups

Away from this hotspot, the Isla Verde Channel is home to thousands of species of marine flora and fauna and has been the subject of church-backed conservation efforts for years.  —Protect VIPs

Away from this hotspot, the Isla Verde Channel is home to thousands of species of marine flora and fauna and has been the subject of church-backed conservation efforts for years. Protect VIPs

MANILA, Philippines — Three of the country’s largest conglomerates have entered into a five-year partnership with the government to protect the Verde Island Passage (VIP), considered the “epicenter of coastal fish biodiversity” in the world’s oceans. center of”.

On Tuesday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Energy signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ramon Ang; Manuel Pangilinan, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Sabin Aboitiz, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc.

READ: Court request forces Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to protect Cape Verde

Among the “richest”

The non-binding agreement also takes effect on Tuesday and could be extended. A technical working group will convene within 30 days to flesh out the partnership, define the roles of each party, and secure the funding needed to achieve its goals.

VIP is a 1.14 million-hectare marine ecosystem located near the coastlines of the provinces of Batangas, Romblon, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, and Oriental Mindoro. It separates Mindoro from Luzon.

One of the richest fisheries in the country, it is home to more than 1,700 marine species, including 60% of the world’s coastal fish, 300 coral species, as well as seagrass and mangroves.

More than 2 million people from five provinces make a living in the VIP zone, which is also a busy shipping corridor.

“Protecting our marine resources is critical not only today but for future generations,” Hong said.

READ: Oil spill reaches Cape Verde Island waterway

biological research station

“We must ensure that in providing clean, reliable and affordable energy to our people, we also focus on protecting the environment and the communities we serve,” Pangilinan said.

“Our goal has always been to help protect our environment and enhance the well-being of our communities, in this case those who rely on Cape Verde’s waterways for their livelihoods,” Aboytis said.

One of the goals of the agreement is to establish a marine science and biological research station with facilities in VIP and five surrounding provinces in partnership with institutions such as the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University and the California Academy of Sciences.

The MoU also calls for close coordination and engagement with communities to provide them with a platform to voice their concerns.

Environment Minister Maria Antonia Yolo-Loyzaga said the partnership would also help China achieve the long-term goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The main outcomes of the fifth Conference of the Parties.

The signing of the MoU comes as the three companies entered into a $3.3 billion agreement to develop the country’s “first and largest” integrated liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Batangas province.

Read: Three tycoons sign $3.3 billion energy deal

welcomed by cynics

Environmental advocacy groups that have long campaigned to shield VIPs from the adverse impacts of business and industry welcomed Tuesday’s agreement with a hint of cynicism.

“There is no reason not to welcome efforts that seek to protect the Isla Verde waterway, which supports the livelihoods and livelihoods of millions of Filipinos,” Protect VIP said in a statement on Tuesday.

But the group said it could not help but question “the sincerity of the agreement” between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the three companies that signed the agreement, “given that their fossil gas operations represent one of the most serious risks faced by VIPs today.” .

Gerry Alansis, chief executive of the Center for Sustainability think tank, said: “Building more fossil gas power plants in VIP areas exposes ocean corridors and adjacent communities to pollution, damage to biodiversity and livelihoods, and exacerbates the impacts of the climate crisis. “Energy, Ecology and Development, co-convenor of Protect VIP.

The organization noted that “five of the Philippines’ six existing fossil natural gas facilities, four of the seven proposed LNG terminals, and nine of the 39 proposed natural gas power plants are located in Batangas.”Cape Verde Island Passage

It also mentioned the $3.3 billion Batangas LNG project recently launched by three energy companies.

“If SMC, AEV and MPIC were co-managing in good faith, building a multi-billion dollar natural gas project that would only bring harm to VIP should not have gone forward in the first place,” Arances said.

DOE’s Guarantee

He said the three groups “can show their sincerity in protecting VIP by halting fossil gas expansion plans, prioritizing the development of renewable clean energy, and helping to enhance the resilience of marine and coastal biodiversity and communities.”

Energy Minister Raphael Lotilla sought to address concerns about the impact of the development of LNG facilities in the Cape Verde Island Channel, saying that compared to oil or coal leaks, “LNG is actually safer because liquefaction The form will evaporate and will not affect the marine environment.

In March last year, the MT Princess Empress oil tanker sank and leaked industrial fuel oil that seeped into marine ecosystems in nearby provinces, including the VIP marine corridor that separates Luzon and Mindoro.

In December 2023, environmental groups asked the Court of Appeal to force the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to designate VIP as a “substandard area” to stop further contamination of the world’s “center of marine coastal fish biodiversity.”

In 2023, VIP was named a “Hope Point” by international ocean conservation nonprofit Mission Blue, which said the strait is globally recognized as critical to ocean health.

Conservation International (CI) also calls the Isla Verde waterway “the backbone of the local economy, which thrives on coastal tourism, fishing and shipping routes.” But CI said the strait “is increasingly threatened by illegal and destructive fishing activities, pollution, unsustainable land use and irresponsible tourism”.—Reports and Inquirer Research by JORDEENE B. LAGARE, DELFIN T. MALLARI JR

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