Filipino clean energy advocates and local stakeholders lamented the delivery of the country’s first shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the import terminal along the Verde Island Passage (VIP) amid an ongoing oil spill, as it heralds increased threats to the ecological health of the marine corridor dubbed the “center of the center” of marine shore fish biodiversity in the world.
The Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company (AG&P) received its LNG floating storage unit two months after an oil spill began in the VIP after a tanker carrying 900,000 liters of industrial oil sank off the coasts of Oriental Mindoro at the end of February.
“AG&P put together an elaborate welcome for the arrival of this LNG supply, but we know full well that this is something that should be lamented and not celebrated,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).
The AG&P terminal intends to supply regasified fuel to two adjacent power plants both owned by San Miguel Corporation (SMC): a currently operating 1.2 GW gas plant and a 1.3 GW plant that is currently under development. A June 2022 study from CEED and Caritas Philippines on the water quality of waters found in this portion of the VIP where the projects are located found that the presence of key pollutants and heavy metals such as phosphates, chromium, copper, lead and others have already reached alarming levels from exposure to industrial activities.
“The VIP is a critically important biodiversity hotspot, providing sustenance and livelihood to millions and serving as home to the greatest concentration of marine species in the world. On top of existing pollution, it has already been victimized by a devastating oil spill – and now LNG shipping, regasification, and combustion operations will further fuel the VIP’s degradation,” Arances said.
Concerned groups and community members in Batangas have repeatedly raised alarm over the environmental impacts of AG&P’s LNG terminal and its adjacent SMC gas projects. The terminal and the 1.3 GW plant are, in fact, the subject of a cease and desist order from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) after violations were found in the projects’ land conversion application.
“Thousands of fisherfolk in the Verde Island Passage have no clue when they can have their livelihoods back because of a fishing ban put in place due to the oil spill. We don’t know when these waters will be declared as safe enough for everyone to fish in again. At a time when fisherfolk are scrambling to figure out how they can provide their families with their next meal, another polluting industry comes to threaten the hope of the VIP’s recovery from pollution and environmental damage. We don’t want LNG in the VIP,” said Wilma Gregorio, member of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (BMB) from Batangas City.
“Opening the floodgates for another fossil fuel at a time of an environmental crisis adds insult to injury for the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos affected by the oil spill. No corporate, government, or other actor can claim they are bringing benefit to communities in the VIP when what they are really doing is making way for more pollution and destruction. There is no place for another fossil fuel like LNG in our coasts; there is only room for efforts towards genuine recovery and advance towards sustainability,” added Fr. Edwin Gariguez, convenor of Protect VIP.
Photo credit: iStock/ Alexpunker. Whale shark watching in Oslob, Cebu Island, Philippines.