Here is a call which we are supporting in order to SAVE MT. KANLAON. I am calling bloggers and websites who have concern for our environment to repost this call and together let us help save a heritage and a biodiversity that is threatened by greed. I have added pictures of Mt. Kanlaon alongside the call so that you will see the environment that is being threatened.
Greetings of Peace!
We are taking this opportunity to inform you of our situation here in a small province in the Philippines located in the Visayas with regards to the plunder that is taking place in our remaining forest cover that is threatened by a geothermal project that is owned by a private corporation. Knowing that you are very much active in the campaign to avert climate change, we beleive that solutions are simple and this includes preservation of our remaining forests.
We would like to tell you our story.
MT. KANLAON IS A PROTECTED AREA (One of the Top Ten Priority Sites for Conservation). The island of Negros has a mere 4.77% (39,630 hectares) forest cover left based on 1989 Swedish Space Agency satellite data. Of the remaining 39,630 hectares of forestlands, only 14,800 hectares are considered primary growth forests. These strands of forest are distributed within the areas of the Northern Negros Natural Park (Mt. Silay & Mt. Mandalagan) and a major fraction of which lies within Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park . However, the island fell far below the 40% forest cover needed to maintain a balanced ecosystem.
Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park is categorized as Natural Park because it is an important watershed of Northern and Central Negros being the headwater catchment of three major river systems namely: Bago, Nahatin and Binalbagan, which supply irrigation water to about 158,500 hectares or one fifth of the province¢s land area. The Bago Watershed has a total land area of 61,926 hectares located at the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park and portion of the Northern Negros Natural Park which is the lifeblood of the cities of Bago, San Carlos , and Talisay, and the towns of Caltrava, Don Salvador Benedicto and Murcia . Again, it is protected under the Presidential Proclamation #604 in 1990.
The Making of RA 9154
In 1998, the Protected Area Management Board or PAMB drafted a bill which will declare Mt. Kanlaon as a natural park, meaning elevating it from a national park status to a natural park because of its significant biodiversity. The said bill was then endorsed in 1999 to Congress. There was no provision whatsoever on the bill on the PNOC-EDC project as well as its proposed buffer zone. In fact, the Draft Bill Committee of the PAMB rejected the proposal of the PNOC-EDC that its geothermal block within the park be considered a "buffer zone". Congressman Carlos Cojuangco (Negros Occidental 4th District), authored the House versin (HB 9152) while Sen. Robert Jaworski sponsored Senate bill (SB 2062). Again it is important to note that such bills, which were endorsed by the PAMB and other local and regional policy (like the Bacolod City Council and the Regional Development Council, etc.) did not carry anything on the PNOC-EDC.
On August 9,2000 , the House Committee on the the Environment and Natural Resources approved HB 9152 without considering the PNOC proposal. Lifted with such crucial policy gain, NGO members of the PAMB passed to overhaul its 1997 endorsement.. On Aug. 18, 2000 , the PAMB, with 17 members voting in favor, approved a resolution for review of the ECC granted to PNOC-EDC in 1995 as well as its earlier endorsement of the project.
Such small victories proved short-lived as the PNOC-EDC, then a big government-controlled corporation, harnessed its big guns (i.e powerful connections within the executive and legislative branches of the government as well as its massive resources) mounted an aggressive policy lobby to lock the outcome it its favor. The NGOs and the PAMB where startled when on Dec. 8, 2000; the House Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources approved a "substitute version" of the HB 9152 in a meeting in Hda. Balbina (the resident of Cong. Cojuangco), municipality of Pontevedra, Neg. Occ.
Such substitute version (HB 12880) which allows the intrusion of the PNOC geothermal project within the MKNP and carves out 169 hectares of the natural park as buffer zone, was obviously based on the 28 June 2000 memo of then DENR Secretary Cerilles which stated that the modification of the boundaries of the natural park and the establishment of the geothermal block as buffer zone appears to be the only legal avenue for PAMB and DENR to implement such earlier endorsement of the PAMB of the PNOC-EDC.
In response to this discripancy, on Dec. 20, 2000 , majority of the members of the PAMB's Advocacy Committee came out with a resolution opposing such substitute version, yet to no avail. ON June 10, 2001 , Congress ratified the "substitute version" which now creates a 169hectares area buffer zone specifically for the PNOC-EDC project. On Aug. 11, 2001 , amid heightened protests, the "oppressive" Mt. Kanlaon bill, unsigned by President Gloria Arroyo, lapsed into law.
The passage of RA 9154 dealt a big setback to the cause of environmentalism and sustainable development in Negros and the Philippines . Rather being hailed as a landmark environmental measure of great significance considering that it was the first ever natural park law after the enactment of the NIPAS Law in 1992, it was instead greeted with dismay, indignation and widespread protests. Newly installed Bishop Vicente Navarra of the Bacolod Diocese issued a pastoral letter against the law and the PNOC-EDC project, and this was followed by a massive protest rally at the Bacolod City Plaza late August 2001, joined in by 10,000 people from the churches, schools, environmental groups and NGOs. The protests only subsided when then PNOC-EDC chair Sergio Apostol issued a statement in early Sept. 2001 that they will no longer enter the buffer zone, saying that based on their technical assessment they could already get the targeted MW outside of it.
Seven years later, that statement of then PNOC-EDC chair Sergio Apostol proved to be a lie after all. Last May 21, 2008, the Sanguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Negros Occidental endorsed and concurred to allow the entry of PNOC-EDC inside the buffer zone of Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park . There concurrence is based on the issuance of a cutting permit of DENR Sec. Lito Atienza as per recommended by DENR Regional Director Lormilyn Claudio and the recommendation of DOE Sec. Angelo Reyes. The SP approved the said project after hearing our position that PNOC-EDC's project have an irreversible impact to our ecosystem.
Negros experienced frequent brown outs weeks before the endorsement came. Trying to condition that there is indeed power crisis, PNOC-EDC capitalized on such condition. We dont know who presses the panic button. Trying to deceive the Negrenses that there is power shortage, PNOCs allies in the electric company and business sector started to make series of press release that the only solution for such energy crisis is the entry of PNOC in Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park. During the arrival of DOE Secretary Reyes in May 7 for an energy briefing, he mentioned that there is a power crisis in Negros but he was later scolded by PGMA that there is no power crisis in Negros.
Bishop Vicente Navarra was also barraged with underground lobbying and interventions by PNOC and DOE. The Bishop during the so called "meeting" in L Fisher Hotel which we suspect organized by PNOC was stabbed at the back for the last time making him believed that the process of hearing sides is fair and square. But it was a circus act, nothing but a "moro-moro" of policy makers, business men, DOE and DENR.
Now that PNOC has the endorsement to enter Mt. Kanlaon , our group together with the Save Mt. Kanlaon Coalition is preparing for some actions to stop PNOC from entering. This includes filing a TRO and massive education campaign. Being an environmental organization run by volunteers and no funds, our struggle for non negotiable, no compromise stance against PNOC is hard. The only possible means we can stop PNOCs entry to for the higher policy making body like the Senate to intervene.
PNOC-EDC is a private company and has deceived most of the Negrenses including the local legislative here and the business men, including the common masses that there is crisis in energy. It has deceived us in expense of our remaining life support system.
We appeal from your Christian conscience to look into this matter with urgency. This is not just our issue but your issue as well. If we allow a private company to encroach in our common property resource which is a property of the state and its people, that means we are selling our national and natural patrimony and we dont want this to happen.
If you need some more clarification on the said issue, please dont hesitate to contact us on the following contact numbers (034) 4349864 or text 09052961281.
We hope to hear from you the soonest time possible.
Thank you so much!
Green Alert Negros