HomeCommentaryAn environmental challenge for solar power companies

An environmental challenge for solar power companies

Last July 4, 2023, was the hottest ever in the history of the world when it reached 17 degrees Celsius for the first time since the recording of temperature in the northern hemisphere began in 1884.

Such high temperatures are likely here too in the Philippines. The climate is changing for the worst as the temperature is increasing and continuous illegal cutting of trees is making it worse.

This is a very serious situation since the threat of drought and low rainfall is likely. Water sources are becoming scarce and a weak rainy season could mean a very poor planting season in Asia.

The Philippines imports much of its rice and for sure Asia will produce much less thus increasing the price. That is a challenge and problem for the nation. Expensive rice causes unrest, hunger, and unhappiness.

Behind this hotter climate is the amount of CO2 gas we have pumped into the atmosphere. Never before has there been so much CO2 produced by humans.

We are continuously burning coal, gas, and oil at unprecedented levels and it is actually increasing, not diminishing, despite the global conferences trying to get nations to change to renewable sources of energy production.

Energy companies are investing more in wind, solar, and hydropower generation with solar panels, windmills, dams, and geothermal plants. Much more has to be done especially in the Philippines.

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To lower the CO2 in the atmosphere and to offset the disasters that are already here and yet to come, we can plant bushes and trees. We can stop the illegal cutting of trees that goes on with the connivance of some corrupt politicians and officials. They seem to have no patriotic love for the Filipino people and the environment.

Since 1901, the forest cover was likely 80 percent or more. After World War II, the Philippine forests were widely devastated by greedy politicians making money from uncontrolled, non-stop logging rebuilding Manila but more for rebuilding Japan and Europe. The Filipino billionaires were born. There are only seven million hectares of rainforest left or just 25 percent of the Philippines.

In 2010, the Philippines had 13.2 million hectares of natural forest, extending over 62 percent of its land area. In 2021, it lost 37.7 thousand hectares of natural forest, equivalent to 22.5MT of CO2 emissions. The Philippine government must stop the destruction of forests and natural resources and protect the environmental protectors that are being murdered. Everyone must plant more trees.

AC Energy of the Ayala group of companies, owned by billionaire Jaime Zobel de Ayala, is building a solar power plant in San Marcelino, Zambales with the construction of a 283-megawatt solar farm. According to a statement by AC Energy, the San Marcelino solar plant is one of the biggest in the Philippines.  

AC Energy has sub-contractors assigned to cut all the trees in a wide pathway over the hills and mountains for the transmission line. They are already building gigantic towers. Despite the contractual obligation to replant thousands of saplings to replace the mature trees that have been cut, AC Energy has allegedly failed to do so. Apparently, in some deal, they turned over a few thousand seedlings to the DENR in Cawag, Subic for them to do the replanting.

The destroyed hilly landscape where the towers are to be built is bare and in danger of landslides. Allegedly, AC Energy has not successfully implemented a sustainable professional replanting project. The photos show the damaged landscape now being washed away by the rain and nothing has been replanted, according to environmental protectors and observers.

This column contacted the AC Energy spokesperson and sent photographs of the destroyed landscape to ask for a comment. The AC energy spokesperson promised to get back to this column but no one responded with information on replanting activities.

According to a published statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), AC Energy is spending 293 million US dollars on its solar project and transmission lines allegedly not complying with its moral and perhaps legal obligation to replant substantially, effectively, and continuously with constant monitoring during the rainy season.

AC Energy should care for the environment more. The solar project is supposed to save and protect the environment so that it can stop burning coal and plant trees to absorb the dangerous CO2 that is causing global warming. AC Energy should be held accountable to protect the Philippine environment and show concern for the people suffering from the searing heat.

The Aboitiz corporation is also constructing a solar plant in Tabacuhan, Olongapo City, and is also building transmission lines in the same general area as AC Energy. Its cables were planned to pass close to the Preda Foundation’s children’s home but through peaceful negotiation, Aboitiz now agrees to relocate the tower further from the children’s home and the transmission lines will be a safe distance since radiation from the high-powered cables is said to be a danger that can cause cancer.

That’s why human dwellings cannot be constructed under such transmission lines. Aboitiz has also made promises to replant saplings (not seedlings, which don’t usually survive). The Environmental Watch group will observe and even join the Aboitiz replanting project, according to the representative of the Aboitiz corporation.

With fewer trees to absorb CO2, the weather is hotter and all will suffer. Life will be unbearable in cities and for outdoor workers. As you read this on Sunday 9th July 2023, it will reach 35 degrees. Saturday will have been 36 degrees.

However, there will be thunderstorms. An average of 15 to 22 days of rain is expected this July, according to forecasters. So expect it to continue and to even get hotter. The new world record of the hottest day at 17.01 degrees on 3 July this year is likely to be repeated or surpassed.

However, we can all call for a reduction of coal, oil, and gas burning in power plants and support the expansion of renewable energy sources. Above all, they too must save the forests and plant more trees.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

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