What happens if Chevron starts a volcanic eruption? Elders want to know
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What happens if Chevron starts a volcanic eruption? Elders want to know

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June 19, 2012

A group of Indigenous Elders are raising questions about the possible environmental impacts of a proposed geothermal plant in the province of Kalinga, Philippines. More than anything, the Elders want to know what Chevron would do if the company’s geothermal drilling operations trigger a volcanic eruption. Writing for Northern Dispatch, Gina Dizon reports.

Elders question geothermal effects on environment

PASIL, Kalinga — Elders of Balatoc, Colayo and Guinaang from this province expressed their fears of the likely effects on the environment of Chevron’s proposed geothermal plant. Elders decry the little information being given about geothermal plants that could have answered the people’s questions.

This despite a compliance certificate attesting to the free prior and informed consent process given by the affected communities, and a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) entered into by community representatives with the Guidance Management Corporation-Aragorn Power and Energy Corporation (GMC-APEC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

GMC-APEC is a partner of multinational Chevron in the geothermal exploration activities in Kalinga covering Tinglayan and Pasil.

Compliance certificates to the FPIC process and respective MOA were gathered from Pasil’s 10 village representatives separately grouped into six ancestral domains of the tribes of Colayo; Balatoc; Guinaang in five barangays Guinaang Proper, Maluksad, Pugong, Galdang and Bagtayan; Dangtalan; and Ableg.

“The agreement was not forged with the umili, (public)” elder Quirino Dugayon of the Guinaang tribes said, referring to collective membership of affected communities.

Respondents told us their major concern in asking for public consultations is full disclosure about geothermal energy/plants. There are questions requiring answers, said Albert Maiyao, Balatoc elder and Sangguniang Bayan member. He added that an environmental impact assessment and an environmental clearance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are crucial. He urged for broader consultation among village constituents.

Barangay Kagawad Ignacio Lingbawan of Guinaang felt the same. He urged the proponents of the project to explain how they would resolve the environmental effects of the geothermal plant such as earth movements or volcanic eruptions. Balatoc has a dormant volcano. Some fear it may be revived similar to what happened in Mt Pinatubo. The latter erupted, and geothermal drilling operations since the late ‘80s to early ‘90s were some of the blamed triggers.

Pasil mayor James Edduba advised the GMC-APEC- Chevron representatives to answer the peoples’ questions.

The geothermal exploration covers 14,000-hectares in Pasil’s 10 villages to determine its geothermal potentials. Geothermal energy depends on heat supply under the earth and also from an abundant watershed to keep water supply consistent. The energy is sourced from underground steam reservoirs and holes drilled down to a reservoir. Each separate production well is mined for thermal energy it produces which is sent in a power house. The steam spins the blades of a turbine attached to a generator.

Unrealized benefits

Emilio Kitongan, chair of the energy committee of the Sangguniang Bayan here, reminded that the rights of people should not be compromised. He referred to the terms of the MOA that should have been implemented, such as several identified community projects, within a five-year period starting 2007 when the agreement was signed.

“Most of these projects are not yet implemented until now,” he said. Kitongan wrote NCIP and GMC-APEC reminding them of their commitments.

The tri-agreement among GMC-APEC, NCIP, and the elders of the affected communities, referred to construction of Malucsad multipurpose Building, rehabilitation of Tabia CS covering Guinaang and parts of Bagtayan, Pugong, Maluksad, and Galdang; Bagtayan health center, Pugong water works, and concreting of Lantaga to Payoc and Lantaga to Opopa irrigation.

Promised benefits for Colayo included the building of a day care center, multipurpose pavement, mini-hydro at Magolon CIS, fence for the school compound, a community bathroom, concrete school stage, and rehabilitation of existing irrigation from Siyao to Kalwitan.

Other covered barangay-ancestral domains have identified community projects as agreed upon with GMC-APEC.

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