CALAPAN CITY—Former Oriental Mindoro congressman Rodolfo G. Valencia slammed the drilling operation being undertaken by a geothermal power project in the 23,000-hectare Naujan Lake National Park (NLNP) saying that it is a protected area covered by three presidential proclamations and other environmental laws.
Barangay Montelago in Naujan town hosts the $187-million geothermal power project owned by Emerging Power Inc.
“It is now being levelled and flattened by heavy equipment of the company, which is contrary to the ECC granted to them,” Valencia, also a former governor, said in a public consultation last Sunday.
The EPI exploration area covers 3,914 hectares within three lakeshore barangays —Montelago, Montemayor, and Melgar B—in Naujan as per the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) granted by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The former lawmaker took a swipe at EMB Region IV-B Director Allan L. Leuterio, saying that the “approval and granting to the EPI of the ECC was flagrantly railroaded as it was not endorsed nor passed the office of the Parks and Wildlife Bureau.”
Lesley Capus, EPI project coordinator, said “our geothermal project is above board. The exploration work being undertaken in the site is all covered by legal documents and above board.”
“The EPI is now in the drilling phase of its geothermal well pad. The geothermal power plant, using steam from underground, will supply an additional 40-megawatts of electric power to the whole island of Mindoro by the third quarter of 2016,” Capus said.
“Yet, geothermal power is a renewable energy source aside from its being cheap and clean,” he added.
Calapan City Mayor Arnan C. Panaligan also raised concerns over the future of Naujan Lake, saying that “we should not lose this treasured national park because if we lose it, we can no longer bring it back to its natural form.”
“We should unite and make a common stand against it if it’s harmful to the environment,” the mayor stressed as he thanked Valencia for calling the consultation.
The PAWB and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have declared the NLNP as a “key biodiversity area” as it is home to rare fish fauna and birds and other waterfowls, such as Philippine duck, tufted duck, Mindoro bleeding heart pigeon, Mindoro imperial pigeon, spotted imperial pigeon, black-hooded coucal, Mindoro hornbill, ashy thrush, scarlet-collared flowerpecker, and Philippine cockatoo, all “residents of the Naujan Lake, but considered as either vulnerable, critically endangered, endangered, or least concern.”
Within the NLNP is the 9,000-hectare Naujan Lake which hosts the rare killer Mindoro crocodile or the “crocodyles mindorensis, (now considered extinct.”
“The Naujan Lake National Park Lake is a protected area covered by three presidential proclamations approved under the administrations of former Presidents Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay, and Ferdinand Marcos,” Valencia said.
“Aside from these proclamations, the NLNP is cited in the Ramsar List of only five wetlands of international importance in the Philippines along with the Tubbataha Reef and the St. Patrick Underground River, in Palawan, and the Agusan Marshland, in Agusan del Sur,” he said.
Valencia, chairman of Oriental Mindoro Investments Council (Orminvest), also took a swipe at some provincial officials for passing a resolution giving permission to the EPI geothermal project to do exploration work in the NLNP.
“I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that they lack knowledge about the negative effects of the exploration and drilling operation being undertaken now around Naujan Lake,” the former first district congressman stressed.
The Oriental Mindoro Sangguniang Panlalawigan, chaired by Vice-Gov. Humerlito Dolor, approved a board resolution allowing the EPI geothermal project to do drilling work inside the NLNP “despite an existing provincial ordinance prohibiting all drilling, exploration and mining activities within the Oriental Mindoro province for 25 years.”
The Montelago Geothermal Power Project is a brainchild of Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso V. Umal, Jr. and his brother, second district Congressman Reynaldo V. Umali, chairman of the House committee on energy.