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Protest greets launch of another wind project

PAGUDPUD, Ilocos Norte—A protest action staged by a group of residents here marred the inauguration on Wednesday of the 81-megawatt Pagudpud wind farm that is operated by the North Luzon Renewable

Energy Corp. (NLREC).

The protesters, composed of 15 families from neighboring Bangui town, are appealing to NLREC to relocate its transmission lines that they said intruded into their land.

On board a white van that displayed streamers decrying the supposed violation of their rights, the family of Joseph Baloaloa and other families from Barangay Malasin in Bangui went to the main station of NLREC in Barangay Caparispisan.

NLREC guards prevented them from entering the wind farm but guests and local officials on their way to attend the opening program saw them. NLREC and local officials led the ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony and blessing of one of 27 wind turbines here.

Gov. Imee Marcos, in her speech during the wind farm opening, said the impact of corporate social responsibility projects should be felt by host communities.

Citing the protests, Marcos said the issue of transmission lines and cables passing through several families’ homes is a “simple and basic problem we can address together.”

“Perhaps, it’s time that we realize that even large companies, like the Ayala group, belong to the local community and that no large project… can take off without local support. I hope you recognize the community in which you live and you will work,” Marcos told representatives of the UPC Renewables, Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure and AC Energy Holdings Inc., the power unit of Ayala Corp. These companies are leading the wind energy project here through the NLREC.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who also attended the program, reiterated his sister’s call “I hope you get the message clear. Those in the private sector should recognize the sacrifices of local residents,” he said.

John Eric Francia, head of AC Energy, assured Ilocos Norte officials and residents that they would study all feedback about the project.

“As one of the key shareholders in this project, I can assure you that we will take all these to heart and we will ensure that we will be partnering truly with the local community moving forward,” he said.

NLREC’s 27 wind turbines are connected to the Luzon power grid and generate at least 3 MW each.