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Mar 25th
Home Columns JGL Eye This Bac-Man Is No Hero
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Columns - JGL Eye
Thursday, 23 June 2011 10:11

 

JGL Eye Column

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

  

CHICAGO (jGLi) – In his diary, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal described Missouri River as twice the size of Pasig River in its widest part. Missouri is just the second largest tributary of the Mississippi, the largest river system in North America.

 

In my youth, I considered Kawayan (spelled with a “k” since there is no “c” in Tagalog nor Bikol alphabets) River in Basud, Sorsogon City in the Philippines to be just as big as the Pasig River if not half as big in its narrowest part.

 

When I was in grade school, I always cherished the days when we visited our relatives living near the banks of Kawayan River so we could swim in the white water the whole day.

 

If we could leave early in the day, we would even walk upstream of Kawayan River called “Rangas” for a picnic to visit one of my uncles, Felipe Lariosa, who would guide us to a pool of water, which was so clean it was safe to drink. We did not care if we took on water while we bathed.

 

Today, Kawayan River is like a swamp that may soon become a dry and barren land.

 

Thanks to what Los Angeles, California activist and legal Sorsogon resident Bobby Reyes describes as an “ecological rape” of Kawayan River perpetrated formerly by the Philippine government when it was operating the Philippine National Oil Company, which later became National Power Corporation. The NPC ceded its interest to Energy Development Corporation after submitting the complying bid for the 150-MW Bacman (Bacon-Manito) geothermal plants last year for 1.2-billion pesos (US$26-million) during an auction hosted by PSALM (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp).

 

While geothermal is considered “cleaner energy” than coal- or oil-fired power plant because each kilowatt-hour of electricity it generates only emits about 5 percent of carbon dioxide, and along with the area’s “rotten-egg” smell as well as ammonia and methane that it emits, it still raises environmental issues such as air and water pollutions along with safe disposal of hazardous waste, silting, and land subsidence.

 

FACEBOOK REVOLUTION

 

O ne of the residents near Kawayan River, Sonia Lariosa, a cousin of mine, informed Mr. Reyes that in her Facebook,  http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150294889948968.379581.720778967, everyone can see the effects of how huge power companies bring ecological nightmare to the rivers like Kawayan and nearby farm lands when these powerful companies disregard environmental safeguards as they go about with their business.

 

Sonia complains that Kawayan River is now a very small tributary. And from the photos, it seems it no longer empties into the Sorsogon Bay.

 

She said her small rice fields are no longer irrigated with water from up streams but with muds “with cement” that can only come from nearby "Bacman II," a geothermal facility that operates two 20-Megawatt-unit turbines “commissioned in 1994.”

 

The word “Bacman” was taken from the former town of Bacon, Sorsogon and the town of Manito, Albay in the Bikol region. It has a steam plant (BacMan I) located in the boundary of Bacon and Manito. Bacon is now a district of Sorsogon City.

 

“When my father (Cirilo Pancho Lariosa, a World War II veteran) was alive, he had been protesting against the PNOC people for bulldozing our small patch of land. My father wanted to sue them but because nobody can sue the government without its consent, my father gave up and let them do what they wanted,” Sonia recalls.

 

While the PNOC was building their facility, quarrying of the river went into high gear. Today, when there is rain, there are no more stones to hold the soil and there are mudslides all over the place.

 

Sonia is not the only one affected. Her neighbors about 200 of them have signed up a petition to put into stop to the unmitigated exploitation of their natural resources that used to irrigate their rice fields, which are the main sources of their livelihood. “We can no longer grow palay in our rice fields,” she wailed.

 

BANTAY SALAKAY (PROTECTOR-PREDATOR)?

 

S he said she could not get the cooperation of her Barangay Captain so their complaints will reach the higher government authorities (the local “representathieves” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources), who are conniving with the Energy Development Company people.

 

They are now enlisting the help of senior law students from Aquinas University in Legazpi City so they can file complaints.

 

They had joined a group called “Bacman Geothermal Multi Monitoring Task Force,” which will assemble a complaint against EDC before the United Nations for violating the KYOTO PROTOCOL, an environmental treaty, of which the Philippines is a signatory.

 

The Task Force realizes that it is up against a behemoth in the industry in EDC, a geothermal leader whose Chair Emeritus is Oscar Lopez of the powerful ABS-CBN international conglomerate. Last May 15, EDC reported a net income of 1.45-billion pesos (US$31-million) for the first quarter of the year alone. Thru its subsidiaries Green Core Geothermal, Inc. (GCGI) and Bacman Geothermal, Inc. (BGI), EDC acquired the geothermal power plants owned by National Power Corporation, which sources steam from steam field assets.

 

Oscar Lopez is an uncle of Gina Paz L. Lopez, the managing director of ABS- CBN’s Foundation, Inc.’s Bantay Kalikasan (nature protector) that “envisions a responsibly protected and preserved Philippine environment where children can live safer, healthier and more bountiful lives.”  Sonia said she wrote Gina about her complaints against EDC sometime ago. But she hadn't heard any from Gina, whom she fears might find herself in a “conflicting role.”

 

EDC remains the largest producer of geothermal energy in the Philippines, accounting for 62-percent of the total in the country, making it the largest integrated geothermal power company in the world.

 

Last year, Bacman plants generated 1,199 MW. To appreciate better the power of an MW, a 3-MW plant can supply electricity to Ormoc City, which has a population of 177,524 people and Ormoc’s nearby towns. # # #

 

Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at: (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

 


Last Updated on Monday, 27 June 2011 07:34
 
Comments (2)
Pilar Alindogan Gabito comments on the Facebook:

To Mr. Lariosa: "Our group of fisher folks and shellfish traders in Sorsogon City, members of UMASA SorBay, Inc. have also been very vocal in our complaints against the operation of EDC that lead to the declaration of REDTIDE ban in Sorsogon Bay by the BFAR for 4 or 5 long years. In fact, our complaint has reached as far as the Senate Committee on Environment, under the chairmanship of Senator Pia Cayetano, but was futile bacause of the ECC, Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by the DENR AND EMB. It's a long discussion. For now, we just hope and pray that it (the REDTIDE) scare would not come back ever again in Sorsogon Bay. The redtide has been lifted only early this year, for reasons we are not sure of, but hopefully the EDC had already constructed a fascility to avoid their chemical wastes to contaminate Sorsogon Bay."
Hi, Ms. Gabito:

I suggest you transform part of Sorsogon Bay into a Marine Sanctuary like the advocacy of former DENR Sec. Alcala, who transformed Mt. Apo into a Marine Sanctuary and the fishermen were the ones guarding the Apo Island.
You can view my story: RP Should Turn Attention to Spratlys, Says RP’s Ex-DENR Chief
http://www.mabuhayradio.com/ecology-and-the-environment/rp-should-turn-attention-to-spratlys-says-rp-s-ex-denr-chief
And this Facebook item: Apo Island Success Story
http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=226872537122&topic=16517
If the redtide will make a comeback to Sorsogon Bay, you can always investigate what is causing it. If the EDC is the culprit again, you can always file your complaint against the EDC and/or DENR. If your complaint does not work, you can always take the matter to local court (perhaps, RTC). That’s the only solution: vigilance thru documentation.
Thanks for reading my column.
Good luck!

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