Philippines: LNG Boom in the Amazon of the Oceans

Location:

Batangas, Philippines

Project risks:

Environmental Destruction, Social Harm

Companies:

Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company
Energy World Corporation Ltd
Excelerate Energy LLC
Shell plc
Tokyo Gas Co Ltd
A Brown Company Inc
First Gen Corporation
Topline Group of Companies

 

Fossil companies are on track to turn Batangas in the Philippines into an LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) import hub for Southeast Asia.12167 Together with the Philippine government, they are preparing a massive rollout of LNG terminals and power plants. 12169 To realize their plans, the companies are willing to sacrifice the Philippines’ precious ocean life and the people who depend on it.12171 Their LNG plans are a slap in the face for Filipinos whose land is already being swallowed by the rising seas.12173

LNG is fossil methane gas in a liquid state. Gas producers cool methane gas down to -162° when the gas turns into liquid. As LNG, they can ship the methane all over the world.12175 LNG-importing countries need special terminals to receive the LNG and turn it back into gas. Only then can they burn it in power plants to generate electricity.12177

In 2021, the Philippines did not have a single operating LNG facility.12181 However, gas and power companies and the Philippine government want to make LNG a central energy source for the island state.1217912183 The plans are already on the table. Until 2023, they want to build at least 6 LNG terminals and 27 gas-fired power plants.12185 12187 The first 3 LNG terminals in Batangas are on track to be ready by 2022.12189 All of the projects will rely on imported LNG. 12191

Fossil gas companies have big expansion plans in the Batangas region in the Philippines. Credit: Ceed Philippines

LNG in the Amazon of the Oceans

The energy companies and the Philippine government plan most of the LNG projects in the Batangas region. 12193 Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company (AG&P) has already begun clearing the area where they want to construct their LNG terminal.12195 The area is part of the Verde Island Passage (VIP). 12197 The Verde Island Passage is a marine strait between Batangas and the island of Mindoro. It lies within the Coral Triangle, the richest area of marine life on Earth.12275 The Verde Island Passage is the center of this center of marine biodiversity.12203

Many people refer to the Verde Island Passage as the “Amazon of the oceans”.12203 Its waters have the highest known concentration of marine life on Earth. Vast coral reefs and rock canyons cover the seafloor. Endangered red fin wrasses and whale sharks, enormous sea turtles and numerous other ocean animals swim along the colorful coral mounts. 12205 In 2005, scientists counted 1736 marine species in an area of 10 by 10 kilometers (6.2 by 6.2 miles).12207 Still, scientists keep discovering new animal species every year. 12209 12211 The Verde Island Passage is so rich in biodiversity that it is a “genetic storehouse” for damaged marine ecosystems across the Philippines and the Coral Triangle.12213 From there, larvae of corals, fish and other species from the Verde Island Passage flush out to other reefs, settle there and help revitalize them. 12215 12217

Fish and corals thrive in the underwater world of the Verde Island Passage. Credit: Boogs

Underwater Threat

Of all places, fossil companies have chosen this center of the center of marine biodiversity for their LNG boom. For their LNG terminal, the Philippine company AG&P wants to build jetties and moorings into the Verde Island Passage. They also want to put up a network of tanks, pipelines, pumps and compressors on the shore.12219 The construction noise can chase fish swarms away. Also, sand and mud from the construction work would pollute the clear waters of the Verde Island Passage.12221 These dirt clouds threaten to suffocate coral polyps, the tiny animals that build up coral reefs.12223

At their LNG terminals, AG&P and other operators want to use seawater to heat up and regasify the cold LNG. Afterwards, they would pump the used water back into the ocean. The regasification process cools down the used water and makes it a few degrees colder than the rest of the seawater.12225 For the corals, this could be deadly. Already the slightest change in seawater temperature can stop the growth of coral polyps and damage the reefs.12227 These reefs are one small part of a complex ecosystem. Ultimately, any damage to the underwater world threatens the animals that live in and from the reefs, and the people who depend on them.12229

The LNG terminals would turn parts of Batangas Bay into an exclusive zone for the fossil fuel industry. LNG terminals and carriers would be right where local fishers used to fish. The fisherfolk would no longer be allowed to enter some of their local fishing grounds. Instead, gigantic LNG carriers would dominate the waters of the Verde Island Passage.12231

Along with the LNG carriers comes an increased risk of accidents. AG&P and the other LNG companies cannot rule out toxic leaks and spills from their carriers and terminals.12233 The worst oil spill in Philippine history showed the dangers of ship accidents and spills for the marine wildlife of the Philippines. In 2006, an oil tanker sank near the island of Guimaras and leaked oil into the ocean. A large part of the birds and fish that lived around the island died and disappeared. This put an end to the livelihood of more than 20,000 fishermen.12235 If the LNG companies’ plans go forward, the corals, fish, birds and coastal people of the Verde Island Passage could be next.

Credit: Ceed Philippines
Credit: Ceed Philippines

A Costly Development for the Philippine People

A massive LNG rollout is the last thing the Philippines needs. Climate change is already a heavy burden for the island state.12237 Over the period from 2000 to 2019, the Philippines was among the top four countries hit hardest by climate change.12239 Rising sea levels are pushing the ocean into Philippine cities.12241 12243 Harder and more often than ever before, typhoons rage across the island nation.12245 They wreck coral reefs, erode the coastlines, flood villages, and drown people in their sleep.12251 12247 In 2020 alone, 21 deadly typhoons hit the country and forced millions of people to flee from the rising waters.12253 12255 At the same time, the seawater is heating up and becoming more acidic.12257 For corals, fish and other marine animals who thrive in a stable marine environment, climate change is already a severe threat.12259 The Philippines cannot afford more stress in form of LNG carriers, terminals and power plants.

The Philippine people would have to shoulder the costly burdens of LNG despite paying some of the highest electricity prices in Asia.12263 The skyrocketing prices of LNG would worsen the already difficult situation. As in many other countries, most power suppliers in the island nation pass fuel costs on to the consumers of electricity. This means they would also pass on the high prices of LNG. This would leave the electricity bills of Philippine households at the mercy of international fossil fuel markets.12265

“Pursuing these fossil gas projects is planting illness at the very heart of a global epicentre for marine biodiversity in the world. Life in the Verde Island Passage must continue thriving to sustain the millions of Filipinos who rely on it for food and to make a living,”

Edwin Gariguez, environmental activist and lead convenor of the campaign Protect VIP.12273

Philippine communities, activists and organizations have successfully pushed the Philippine government to drop their coal expansion plans.12267 Now, environmental organizations, climate activists, fisher organizations, and religious groups are on the move to stop the next fossil project: LNG. Together, they are pushing fossil companies and financial institutions to stay away from dirty and dangerous LNG in the Philippines. It is not too late to stop the LNG boom and save the “Amazon of the ocean”.12269 12271

People set out in boats to protest against the LNG boom in the Philippines, a country that currently does not have a single operating LNG terminal. Credit: CEED Philippines
A large network of environmental, religious and social justice groups demand an end to the activites of the gas companies in the Batangas region and all across the Philippines. Credit: CEED Philippines

Groups working on Philippines LNG: Protect VIP, Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Philippines, Power for People Coalition, Greenpeace SEA, Caritas Philippines, Laudato Si Movement Philippines, Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Green Convergence, Diocese of San Carlos, Lipa Archdiocesan Social Action Center (LASAC), Ilijan Community Development Foundation, Inc., National Anti-Poverty Commission NAPC, Archdiocesan Ministry on Environment, Inc. (AMEN), Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (BMB), ECOSILAK - Youth for VIP, Konsyumer Negros, Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH)

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