DOE revives Sorsogon geothermal project

Sorsogon City- The Department of Energy is reviving its long-shelved project to explore the geothermal potential around Bulusan Volcano, a DOE official said in a recent visit here.

Ariel Fronda, head of the DOE's Geothermal Energy Management Division, said the project is being pursued again as part of the government's efforts to utilize renewable energy.

The exploration project has been awarded to SKI Construction Group, a Filipino-owned company

Fronda met with local officials at the provincial capitol led by Gov. Raul Lee as part of its initial consultation for the project which aims to generate at least 4 megawatts (MW).

However, the consultation ended without any concrete results as some officials present were not totally sold out to the idea.

Gov Lee said energy officials must thoroughly explain the environmental aspect of the projects to allay fears of the community.

He pointed out that the environment issue was the main reason why residents of Irosin town vehemently opposed the project when it was first introduced in the 80s.

Irosin Mayor Jun Ong seconded Lee's observation saying his constituents already have a bias against geothermal project.

However, Juban Mayor Jimmy Fragata, a geologist with the Energy Development Corporation, the biggest geothermal producer in the country, said there is nothing to fear from geothermal explorations.

Fragata explained that geothermal exploration nowadays is already highly modernized such that environmental effect is very minimal.

He said that utilizing geothermal power is very economical and would mean cheaper electricity cost which could greatly help the province.

Eduardo Laguerta, resident volcanologist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology wh was also invited to the meeting, said geothermal exploration could be safely done around Bulusan Volcano, away from the danger areas.

Laguerta stressed that the investor would also not allow the project to continue if it's not safe as it would endanger their investments.

Bulusan National Park is located at the foot the Bulusan Volcano, an active volcano which straddles at the towns of Gubat, Barcelona, Bulusan, Irosin, Juban and Casiguran.

The project was first raised in the 80s but was shelved due to strong resistance from the residents of Irosin town. The project would cover at least 26,000 hectares of the national park.

Fronda said the DOE has already awarded a contract to SKI Construction Group, a Filipino-owned corporation, for the right to develop the area to determine the viability of the project.

He said the exploration would take six months to a maximum of two years after which construction of the necessary facilities and commissioning of the plant would take another three years.

The energy official said allowing the project would help in the government's effort to develop more sources of power as it promotes the use of renewable sources of energy in the country.