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Residents to LGUs: Stop renewable-energy projects

CALAPAN CITY—Islanders here have asked top leaders of Oriental Mindoro to stop, at least temporarily, the ongoing but delayed construction of several renewable-energy projects suspected to have caused massive flooding and 13 deaths in this province during the onslaught of Typhoon “Nona.”

Residents blame the P4-billion damage wrought by Nona on Dec. 15 on the excavations, tunneling, exploration works and drilling being undertaken for these geothermal, mini-hydro and wind farm renewable- energy projects.

The Oriental Mindoro Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council reported 13 deaths in the municipalities of Pinamalayan, Calapan City, Naujan, and Baco. Aside from the casualties, 10 remain missing and are still unaccounted for.

Their deaths, according to the PDRRMC, were either caused by landslides or from drowning in floods.

Former governor and congressman Rodolfo G. Valencia urged Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso V. Umali Jr. and his brother, second district Congressman Reynaldo V. Umali, chairman of the House committee on energy, to “use their influential positions to look into the real cause of massive destruction and deaths that never happened in our province before.”

Valencia strongly expressed fear of massive disaster in the future, including loss of lives, that may possibly result from erosion as well as pollution of the land and bodies of water in the rural villages if not presently contained.

There are 11 still unfinished mini-hydro and geothermal power projects, seven of them in three hardest-hit municipalities by Typhoon “Nona” and where major destruction and number of deaths were reported.

There are three mini-hydro projects in Baco town, namely, the Dulangan Mini-Hydro Power Project, operated by the PNOC Renewable Corp.; the Linaw Cawayan Lower Cascade and the Lower Cawayan Upper Cascade, all funded and operated by Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative Inc.

There are three RE projects in Naujan municipality, namely, the $180-million 40-megawatt Montelago Geothermal Power Project, of Emerging Power Inc., located in the protected area of the 21,655-hectare Naujan Lake National Park; and the P1.9-billion 8-MW Catuiran Mini-Hydro Power Project, of Sta. Clara Power Corp., located in Barangay Malvar.

The other mini-hydro power projects are located in San Teodoro, three; Bongabong, one, and Victoria, one.

Despite the project site of the EPI’s Montelago geothermal power project is within the protected area of the NauJan Lake National Park, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources gave the green light to the Protected Area Management Board to approve a resolution declaring the land or project site as “multi-purpose zone.”