“Renewable energy” in Ilocos destroys people’s livelihood and environment

This article is available in Pilipino

Democratic and revolutionary forces in the provinces of Ilocos and La Union fear the widespread and continued influx of foreign companies investing in different “renewable” energy projects in the region. Presently, nine wind, solar and hydropower plants operate in the region. In addition, 13 similar projects have been approved and are being developed. Seven already operating and eight under construction are found in Ilocos Norte. There are still two applications for windpower projects in the province.

Renewable energy is electricity derived from solar, wind, hydro, ocean, thermal and geothermal resources. Aside from being unlimited, renewable energy is cleaner compared to energy produced from fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) which cause widescale environmental destruction and global warming.

Though touted as “clean,” the construction of renewable energy facilities causes widespread destruction of the environment and livelihood of the masses. One of the renewable energy projects being constructed is the Ilocos Norte Solar and Wind Power Plant in Burgos, Bangui, Pasuquin and Vintar. It covers 2,346 hectares of mountains and plains where thousands of minorities and peasants live.

The project seized ancestral lands where huge wind turbines and energy storage facilities were constructed. In a huge part of the forest, trees were cleared, land was flattened and wide roads constructed to give access to the wind turbines, big trucks and other construction equipment. Initial reports show that 2,984 trees were cut and 5,143 others were uprooted to pave the way for the project.

The project endangers the lives and livelihood of residents who have long been vulnerable to landslide. It also destroys watersheds and the natural flow of water.

Beyond land, these renewable energy projects will also cover the region’s oceans. The BuhaWind Energy Project of the Danish company Copenhagen Energy and the PetroGreen Energy of the Yuchiengco family will cover the rich municipal fishing grounds in Burgos, Bangui and Pagudpud. This will divest livelihood from hundreds of small fisherfolk who do not have the capacity to fish beyond the site of the planned windmills and electric cables.

Anti-environment investment

The biggest bourgeois compradors partner with foreign companies in pushing for renewable energy projects. They ride on the call for a cleaner energy production which supposedly aims to significantly reduce use of destructive and “dirty” energy. In truth, they continue to pour capital into dirty energy, and only invest in renewable energy projects to generate additional profits.

Among them is the Ayala Family, who has huge investments in the local subsidiary of Shell, one of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world. Among the investors in renewable energey projects are the Aboitizes, Gokongweis, as well as Ramon Ang and Manny Pangilinan, who have their own big coal, petroleum and natural gas plants, are investing in renewable energy projects.

In Ilocos Norte, they collude with the Marcos family, through its provincial governor Matthew Marcos-Manotoc, son of Sen. Imee Marcos. The Marcos are now marketing Ilocos Norte as Southeast Asia’s “renewable energy center” to attract billions of big capitalist investments.

Towards this, the Marcos regime made renewable energy investment a priority. In its development plan for 2022-2028, it identified the energy sector as “key to economic development.” It fast-tracked the granting of contracts to 41 companies during its first six months in office.

In addition, the Department of Energy amended the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 last November 2022 to allow 100% foreign investment in renewable energy. Prior to the new rules, foreign ownership was limited to 40%, as stipulated in the 1987 constitution.

“Renewable energy” in Ilocos destroys people’s livelihood and environment