Envi groups denounce San Miguel Corp. over fossil fuel expansion

Jun. 19, 2022

Children of protesters belonging to the Riverwatch group join in the call against San Miguel Corporation’s planned expansion of its fossil fuel operations. (Photo courtesy of the Power for the People Coalition)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Mindanao-based environmental organizations, together with cause-oriented advocates across the nation, have criticized San Miguel Corporation (SMC) for its massive plans on new fossil fuel power plants.

“We condemn SMC and all its subsidiaries for all of their environmentally destructive projects and pretensions at leading the country’s charge towards a genuine renewable energy pathway,” said PALAG NA! in a solidarity statement.

The SMC plans to expand its fossil fuel investment through the proposed 14-gigawatt new fossil fuel capacity, which would make it the biggest developer of fossil gas in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

PALAG NA!, which maintains chapters in the cities of Davao and Ozamiz, said that forcing the burden of more dirty and costly energy on Filipinos is against the giant corporation’s credo of a ‘world made better’.

SMC has been popular as a local beer brewery and food and beverage company, but it has liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant projects in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Mindanao already had its share of coal-fired power plants operating and the fossil fuel expansion would further degrade the environment, said PALAG NA!

Clean energy?

From a predominantly coal-based power sector, the Philippines is looking to increase its use of fossil gas and LNG – the Department of Energy’s new “preferred fuel”.

“Building dependence on fossil gas means dependence on imported fuels, exposure to volatile power supply and prices,” said Gerry Arances of the Power for People Coalition (P4P).

He added that such would leave consumers to the constant threat of rising electricity rates, and vulnerability to geopolitical shocks globally, on top of an already catastrophic climate crisis triggered by fossil fuels. He expressed worry that this is “the kind of future that SMC is locking us in”.

The P4P, Protect Verde Island Passage (Protect VIP), and their allied groups trooped to the SMC headquarters in Mandaluyong City last June 14, during the SMC’s stockholders meeting where they expressed their opposition to the corporation’s new project. They claimed that fossil gas is no better than coal in terms of affordability, sustainability, or promotion of national energy security.

“We wonder if the hardships they bring with their fossil gas projects ever figure in their discussions – or if SMC’s rising revenues are all that matter,” Arances said, noting that SMC, as one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines, has the ability to influence the quality of life of Filipinos. “They should be held accountable if they negatively use it to promote detrimental and costly energy,” he added.

Dubbed as a “clean” alternative to coal, fossil gas and its supercooled form LNG is being touted as a “transition” fuel amidst calls for a renewable energy shift in recent years due to global climate targets.

While less carbon-intensive than coal, fossil gas and LNG emit methane throughout their value chain, a greenhouse gas with 80 times more heat-trapping capacity than carbon dioxide.


“Fossil gas technologies would operate for a minimum number of 25-35 years, effectively stalling the actual development of genuine renewable energy infrastructures in Negros Occidental and other islands,” said Bianca Montilla from Youth for Climate Hope in Negros Occidental.

The SMC plans to build a 300-megawatt LNG plant in their province. Montilla said this will take the Philippines on a detour away from a real clean energy transition amidst worsening climate impacts.

The ecological impacts of SMC’s proposed gas fleet also raised the concern of the environmental groups, because its project sites are areas host to critical marine and coastal ecosystems, including the Tanon Strait between Cebu and Negros and the Verde Island Passage in Batangas, a marine corridor known as the “Center of the Center” of marine shore fish biodiversity in the world.

“SMC and other proponents are parading their shift from coal to gas as a shift towards cleaner energy, but the reality is they are merely switching lanes while driving us down the same road of climate and environmental destruction,” said TJ Alcantara of ECOSILAK – Youth for VIP, a group belonging to the Protect VIP network.

Alcantara said their province is set to lose the most from threats of fossil gas on their precious biodiversity. (davaotoday.com)

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