THE San Miguel Corp. (SMC) has withdrawn its application for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for its proposed 300-megawatt (MW) Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) combined cycle power plant project in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, an environment group said in a statement last night, November 15.

The plant, to be developed by SMC subsidiary, Reliance Energy Development Inc., faced opposition from Negrosanons spearheaded by San Carlos Bishop Bishop Gerry Alminaza, who is also a convenor of the clean energy group REpower Negros.

The withdrawal was confirmed by the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-EMB) in a letter dated November 14, 2022 to Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Avril de Torres.

“This is a victory for Negrosanons, who have made their voice clear that they preferred renewable energy to LNG in sourcing their power for the island. Although LNG is considered a ‘transition fuel’ by some, it is clearly unnecessary for Negros, which boasts of extensive renewable energy facilities,” de Torres said.

Alminaza voiced the environmental and economic concerns of Negrenses about the project, and had earlier written a letter to SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang about the matter.

“I am grateful for the help of the Almighty in ensuring that the voice of the people of Negros are heard and that the natural beauty of our island can be preserved through the minimal use of fossil fuels,” the bishop said.

Alminaza said Negros is the center of renewable energy in the country, and they hope that the rest of the Philippines would follow its lead in saying no to fossil fuels and accelerating the adoption of the more affordable and sustainable renewable energy.

“We also hope that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan will finally listen and pull out the resolution of non-objection it prematurely issued to the project,” Alminaza said.

The bishop added that “we remain committed as partners in caring for our environment and renew our call for SMC and other companies, as well as for the government to hasten the shift to renewable energy, and for financial institutions to stop financing fossil fuels.”

The environment group further said that the youth of Negros hailed the news, in the face of complaints that the voice of the youth is being ignored in discussions about climate change.

Krishna Ariola, Founding Convenor of Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH), said that the youth have been left out of the equation in determining the energy policy of this country.

Ariola, who is currently at the ongoing UN climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, said the continued use of fossil fuels will affect us economically in the form of high electricity prices, and environmentally in the form of severe climate change.

“We hope that this development, the third such application by SMC after the proposed LNG projects in Leyte and Cebu, will be the start of a trend against further development of LNG in the country,” she added.*