Philippines: LNG Boom in the Verde Island Passage



Project risks:

Environmental Destruction, Social Harm


LNG developers:

  • Shell plc
  • A Brown Company Inc
  • Energy World Corporation Ltd
  • First Gen Corporation
  • Tokyo Gas Co Ltd
  • Excelerate Energy Inc
  • Topline Business Development Corporation
  • Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company
  • Lopez Holdings Corporation
  • First Philippine Holdings Corporation

Gas-Fired Power developers:

  • Gen X Energy Pte Ltd
  • Ayala Corporation
  • Enex Energy Corporation
  • Acen Corporation
  • Batangas Clean Energy Inc
  • KKR & Co Inc
  • Mariveles Power Inc
  • Millennium Energy Inc
  • PanAsia Energy Inc
  • Privado Holdings Corp
  • Top Frontier Investment Holdings Inc
  • San Miguel Corporation
  • San Miguel Global Power Holdings Corp
  • Excellent Energy Resources Inc
  • Prestige Power Resources Inc
  • Reliance Energy Development Inc
  • Converge Power Generation Corp
  • Grand Titan Capital Holdings Inc
  • GT Capital Holdings Inc
  • JG Summit Holdings Inc
  • First Pacific Company Ltd
  • Metro Pacific Investments Corporation
  • Manila Electric Company (Meralco)
  • Atimonan One Energy Inc
  • Vivant Corporation
  • Global Luzon Energy Development Corporation
  • Grand Titan Capital Holdings Inc
  • GT Capital Holdings Inc
  • JG Summit Holdings Inc
  • First Pacific Company Ltd
  • Energy World Corporation Ltd
  • Orion Pacific Prime Energy Inc
  • Power Partners Ltd Co
  • Acen Corporation
  • Vires Energy Corporation

Gas companies want to turn the Verde Island Passage into an LNG hub. By zooming in, you can recognise the site of an existing gas power plant, next to which AG&P is building its LNG facility.


Fossil companies are on track to turn Batangas in the Philippines into an Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) 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°C to turn it into a more transportable liquid state. As LNG, the companies 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 to build at least 12 LNG terminals and 35 gas-fired power plants are already on the table. 12185 More are likely to follow. The first LNG terminal of the Philippines began operating in April 2023.12187 Many of the other LNG projects in the country are facing major delays.15665 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 finished building its LNG terminal, while First Gen Corporation expects to complete construction of its own project in the end of 2023.15603 Several others are in varying stages of planning.15601 The area borders the Verde Island Passage (VIP). 14333 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.12199 The Verde Island Passage is "the center of the center" of this marine biodiversity paradise.14313

Many people refer to the Verde Island Passage as the “Amazon of the oceans”.12203 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 100 square kilometers (38.6 square miles).14315 Still, scientists keep discovering new animal species every year. 1220912211 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 flush out to other reefs, settle there and help revitalize them. 1221512217

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 epicenter of marine biodiversity for their LNG boom. The plan envisions a build-out of LNG terminals, pipelines and power plants all along the shores of the Verde Island Passage.

Philippine and international companies are behind these projects. Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company (AG&P), headquartered in Singapore, and Philippine company First Gen Corporation are spearheading the LNG developments.1560515607 They have built jetties and moorings into the Verde Island Passage. On the shore, they have put up a network of tanks, pipelines, pumps and compressors.15609 This LNG infrastructure will feed existing and yet to be built gas-fired power plants. San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is in the process of building its LNG-fired power plant on the coast of the Verde Island Passage.15611

The massive gas expansion accelerates the industrialization of the Verde Island Passage. Power stations are rising on the shore, concrete jetties are reaching into the sea, and LNG tankers are anchoring where fisherfolk used to fish. Environmental organizations and scientists warn against the impacts of the industrialization boom on marine ecosystems of the Verde Island Passage. During the construction, mud and sand can cloud the water and suffocate coral polyps, the tiny animals that build up coral reefs.15615 Once the LNG terminals and power plants are in use, they pump 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. For the corals, this could be deadly. The slightest change in seawater temperature can stop the growth of coral polyps and damage the reefs.15613 The discharge from the gas plants and terminals could also worsen the water quality.15617

A marine environment does not have any borders. Any effects on one part of the ecosystem will inevitably spread to other parts.15619 The fishing communities of Batangas are the first to feel this. Already now, fisherfolk are catching less fish than ever before. Industrial development, climate change, and unsustainable tourism have diminished the marine wildlife that people in Batangas depend on to earn a living. Local fishermen worry that the aggressive expansion of LNG facilities and gas power plants will make the situation even worse.15621 The gas infrastructure is turning parts of Batangas Bay into an exclusive zone for the fossil fuel industry.15623 The fisherfolk are no longer allowed to enter some of their fishing grounds.15625 They fear that soon they will only catch waves and leaves.

All the new fossil infrastructure means the waters of Batangas could soon be dominated by LNG carriers. Along with LNG carriers comes an increased risk of accidents. AG&P and the other gas companies cannot rule out toxic leaks and spills from their carriers, terminals and power plants.15627 The most recent oil spill in the Philippines shows the dangers of ship accidents and spills for the nation's marine wildlife. In February 2023, an oil tanker sank near the island of Mindoro in the Verde Island Passage and leaked oil into the ocean. The oil slick blackened beaches and mangrove forests while volunteers tried to contain the spill in a race against time. Birds, fish and plants were coated in oil. More than 26,000 fishers can no longer earn a living.15629  If the gas companies’ plans go forward, the corals, fish, birds and coastal people would face even greater risks to their lives and livelihoods. 

Gas is not a good neighbor

People in Batangas have not had good experiences with the gas industry. Those that live next to the 5 already existing gas power plants of SMC, First Gen, and the Lopez Group have a higher chance of being diagnosed with a disease than elsewhere.15631 In the process of burning gas to generate electricity, power plants release pollutants into the air that harm people’s health.15633 Doctors and residents worry that if existing and new gas facilities continue to burn fossil gas, they might trigger a health crisis in Batangas.15635

Already during the construction phase, fossil gas companies have proven that they do not take environmental regulations seriously. AG&P and SMC began constructing their LNG terminal and gas plant in Batangas without having the necessary permits to cut down trees and build on the land. When the Philippine authorities found out, they ordered AG&P and SMC to stop construction immediately. The companies continued.15637 Since the companies cleared the land, dust has been blowing into the houses and onto the fruit orchards of residents who experience coughs and bad harvests.1563915641 To protect the Verde Island Passage from more harm, local fisher groups and environmental organizations have filed complaints that challenge AG&P and SMC’s environmental certificates for their fossil gas projects.1564315645

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 Throughout the period between 2000 and 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.1224112243 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.1225112247 In December 2021, the super typhoon Rai killed more than 400 people and wrecked more than 535,000 houses.1432114323 At the same time, the seawater is heating up and becoming more acidic. For corals, fish and other marine animals which thrive in a stable marine environment, climate change is already a severe threat.12259 The Philippines cannot afford more stress in the 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 most power suppliers will pass rising fuel costs onto electricity consumers. This would leave the electricity bills of Philippine households at the mercy of international fossil fuel markets.1226515647 Global gas prices are so high that many Philippine LNG projects may not materialize at all.14325 At the same time, the Philippines is accelerating its shift towards renewable energy.14327 Both of these factors increase the already doubtful risk profile of Philippine LNG projects.14329 14331

“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.15649 Now, environmental organizations, climate activists, fisher organizations, religious groups and residents are on the move to stop the next fossil threat: LNG. By pleading, petitioning and protesting, residents and activists have already stalled 8 fossil gas projects across the country.15651 Over 95 civil society organizations and representatives from around the globe demand Shell and other gas companies to cancel their LNG terminals in Batangas.15653 In May 2023, Philippine activists travelled all the way to Europe, the US and Japan to demand financial institutions to get out of the companies destroying the Verde Island Passage. They met with banks and investors, organized protests in front of their general meetings, and met with media outlets and fellow activists.1565515657 They want to show financial institutions it is not too late to stop the LNG boom and save the “Amazon of the ocean”.1565915661

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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A comprehensive overview of climate change impacts and the vulnerability of the VIP is documented in the September 2010 newsletter from Conservation International: Adapting to Climate Change – Maintaining ecosystem services for human well-being in the Verde Island Passage, Philippines:
Germanwatch, January 2021. Global Climate Risk Index 2021, p.50…………