The possibility that the Energy Development Corp. may construct two to three more geothermal drilling wells at the Mt. Kanlaon National Park buffer zone, the entry of which was authorized by the national government, to come up with its 40-megawatt power commitment to the provincial government of Negros Occidental, is not remote, a power firm official said.
Dwight Maxino, EDC Site Vice President for Negros Island, however, said it will depend on the outcome of the study of two companies they have commissioned to re-assess the resource size and permeability at the buffer zone.
In November last year, the EDC had temporarily shut down its geothermal power plant in Bago City, pending additional technical studies to make it more viable for commercial use.
The Bago plant, which was commissioned in 2007, was targeted to produce about 40 megawatts of power but only had an about 7-megawatt output when it was shutdown in November 26 last year.
Maxino yesterday clarified that the shutting down of its power plant in Brgy. Mailum, Bago City, is only temporary. The technical studies, which are being conducted by the GNS Science of New Zealand and Geothermal Science of USA, is expected to end October this year.
Environmentalists and even Church officials have ganged up on EDC for its entry into the MKNP buffer zone to generate steam for its geothermal power plant in Bago City.
This prompted the Negros Occidental provincial government to set up safeguards to protect the park, especially its bio-diversity, and to create a monitoring committee.
Maxino said the study will tell them how to design the next wells, and where to drill them.
The development of new wells and their connections might require another two years, Maxino said. Butt “it does not mean that we cannot operate the power plant,” he added.
“We might operate it, but maybe not on a continuous basis,” Maxino said.
EDC officials led by Noel Salonga, EDC Assistant Vice President for Resource Management, who briefed members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Negros Occidental on the shutting down of geothermal power plant in Bago City, failed to give a categorical answer on queries of Board Member Miller Serondo, on why EDC failed to comply with its commitment to provide Negros Occidental 40 megawatts of geothermal power, in exchange for its entry into the MKNP buffer zone.
In an interview with reporters after the briefing, Maxino admitted that there is no assurance that they will be able to generate 40 megawatts from the buffer zone, unless the study they commissioned completed.
“We can’t see it, but we can estimate it through most stringent studies”, he added.
Maxino, however, added “We strongly believe that we will get more power, maybe not 40 megawatts, but more than the current output of seven (megawatts)”.
Despite the temporary shutdown, Maximo said EDC continues to comply with the stringent conditions set by the provincial government in 2008.
An EDC report said it has planted 160,000 trees on 400 hectares, to replace the 12.5 hectares used in the 169-hectare buffer zone allocated for tapping geothermal power within MKNP.
Maxino said residents from EDC’s host communities in Brgy. Mailum, Bago City, and Brgy. Minoyan, Murcia, were hired for its unskilled labor requirements, with P12.5 million worth of contracts awarded to local constructors, since July 2008 to December last year.
EDC even went beyond compliance by planting an additional 50 to 100 hectares of trees every year, during the operation of the project, he said.
EDC has also partnered with the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology to conduct a biodiversity monitoring and conservation program, that is aimed to determine the impact of the development of the buffer zone to the over-all biodiversity of the area, he added.
“We are quite successful in preventing damage to the surroundings and trees,” Maxino said.
On the other hand, Salonga said EDC consultants have recommended the optimization of wells in Sitio Pataan and further geophysical survey.*GPB