THE Diocese of Bacolod is against any attempt of geothermal producer Energy Development Corp. (EDC) to explore the North Negros Natural Park (NNNP), another protected area in the province.

In a pastoral letter released by the Diocese of Bacolod on Thursday, Bishop Vicente Navarra said “the people have already learned their lessons the hard and painful way.”

“The destruction left by EDC in its wake could never be restored not for the next 20 or 30, or even 50 years. We cannot allow another man-made threat of destruction to what's left of our protected forests, the negative impact of which will resonate for generations to come and slowly destroy the environment, ravage communities and obliterate lives,” the bishop said.

The bishop issued the statement after it was earlier reported that EDC is eyeing to drill for another geothermal power plant in Mt. Mandalagan, which is part of the NNNP.

In January, the EDC submitted a copy of the project description for the “Geo-scientific Study in Mandalagan Geothermal Prospect” to the office of Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson.

Navarra said the protest of the Negrenses against the presence of EDC in Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park started in 2001 when after the passage of Republic Act 9154 or the MKNP Law, “169 hectares of our national patrimony was practically served on a silver platter to then PNOC-EDC (which) was allowed to explore 80 megawatts (MW) of power.”

“Their promise of geothermal power was later reduced to 40MW. History would show that EDC was not able to deliver even 1MW of power for the people of Negros,” he added.

The bishop said that “(t)his eventually led to the EDC's reluctant admission that no geothermal power could be produced from the wells and to the ultimate cessation of its operation in the area.”

He added that the “EDC has admitted to bungling its exploration despite its experts in the field, and encroached on the buffer zone of MKNP thereafter for another exploration to correct its miscalculations.”

“Unfortunately, RA 9154 has manipulated its interpretation to an area for exploration and development allowing EDC entry the area for road clearing and construction and development of well pads destroying in the process 12.5 hectares of forest and more than 4,000 trees,” the bishop said.

Navarra added that the Diocese of Bacolod is “not against alternative renewable sources of energy provided that it is not contrary to the integrity of creation.”

“We have quite a number of options to explore like wind, solar, hydro, bio, or hybrid power. These are alternative sources that do not necessitate the destruction of our forest and Mother Nature,” the bishop added.