Making my province, Negros Oriental, an environment-friendly and clean-energy province is one of the toughest decisions I have made as governor.
Personal conviction and political will are truly needed in order to shape policy directions and advance efforts for a cleaner, safer and more secure environment. I want to share our experience to serve not just as an example but an inspiration in achieving a cleaner energy future.
Saying no to coal
In March, I signed Executive Order No. 9 mandating the use of clean and renewable energy in all 19 municipalities and six cities of Negros Oriental, effectively imposing a moratorium on coal. This is primarily in support of the national government’s goal of meeting its commitments in line with the Instrument of Accession to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to which the Philippines is a signatory. The agreement identifies the critical impact of global warming and the need to address this issue through programs that cut carbon emissions.
The EO means that our local government of Negros Oriental will no longer issue any permit, authorization or endorsements that support the development and operation of coal-fired and fossil-fuel power plants.
This decision was made easier by the fact that Negros Oriental as a province is rich in natural resources. We pride ourselves not just in our abundant agricultural produce but in eco-tourism, which is the lifeblood of many communities. If we do not look at the bigger picture and the longer-term objective of conserving these natural resources, we may squander them. It is the responsibility of government leaders to take the initiative and leadership to make our respective constituents appreciate a more sustainable approach to planning and progress.
A cleaner energy future also requires a dynamic and evolving approach to the latest trends and technologies. In the past 30 years, Negros Oriental has been solely dependent on geothermal power for electricity thanks to the Energy Development Corporation. And in 2016, we inaugurated a 213,292 sqm solar power plant in Bais City, which now generates 24,205 MWh of electricity annually and powers more than 10,000 households in the region, reducing up to 14,838 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
In 2015, Silliman University in Dumaguete City also partnered with a Filipino-American energy group for the largest school-based solar power project in Southeast Asia: enabling Silliman’s 62-hectare campus to be supplied with 1.2 MW of solar power.
In the pipeline, the Department of Energy (DOE) will be establishing hydroelectric power projects in Negros Oriental —three separate facilities in the municipality of Amlan with a total capacity of 5.5 MW, with target testing and commissioning date of the first two in December 2020 and the final one in December 2025.
We are also actively inviting investors to analyze our offshore areas to convert wind currents into valuable electricity turbines in the municipalities of Pamplona, Siaton and Sta. Catalina.
I am glad that there are no regrets from those who elected me to make these choices, because the support of the Negros Oriental constituency is loud and clear. The critical Sangguniang Panlalawigan has passed a resolution adapting Executive Order No. 9 and affirming that prime movers in business, civil society, tourism, the academe and even the Church have backed me up all the way in this noble initiative.
Truly, going for cleaner renewable energy today is an investment for the future.