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Floating solar projects threaten local fisherfolk in Laguna de Bay

Jul 1, 2024, 12:45 AM
Jai Duena

Jai Duena


Is the government prioritizing energy and economic profits over small fisherfolk and agriculture by ignoring locals on the effects of floating solar projects in Laguna de Bay?

Is the government prioritizing energy and economic profits over small fisherfolk and agriculture by not consulting locals on the effects of floating solar projects in Laguna de Bay?

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas-Bay (Pamalakaya-Bay) has expressed concerns about their livelihoods once the construction of a 2,000-hectare floating solar project in Laguna de Bay starts.

According to the group, more than 8,500 registered fisherfolk in the province of Laguna, 800 of whom are small fishermen in Bay town might lose their livelihoods over these projects, while over 2,000 individuals involved in aquaculture will also be affected.

“Napag-alaman namin sa lokal na pamahalaan na hindi lamang mahaharangan ng mga floating solar panel ang daanan ng mga bangka, kundi sasaklawin ng proyekto maging ang mga daungan. Walang alternatibong nabanggit para sa mga apektadong mangingisda ng Lawa ng Laguna,” said PAMALAKAYA-Bay president Alejandro Alcones.

“Nakakadismaya na hindi na nga kami nakonsulta bago planuhin ang proyekto na sasaklaw sa aming pangisdaan, hindi pa isinama sa plano kung paano ang kabuhayan ng daan-daang maliliit na mangingisda sa bayan ng Bay,” he added.

FPVs in Laguna de Bay

To recall, the national government, along with the private sector, has earmarked Laguna de Bay as a potential site for so-called Floating Photovoltaic Plants (FPV) plants.

As reported by Ports and Reports last September 2023, the lake will be the first location for FPV projects in the country as it presents a unique opportunity for the implementation of the project due to its catchment area of 90,000 hectares, geographical location, and the increasing demand for power and electricity in the region.

That month, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) awarded rights to develop 10 FPV projects to SunAsia Energy Inc., a pioneer solar energy developer in the country, and its partner Blueleaf Energy.

The project, which could be the world’s largest FPV project with its 1,000 hectares and capacity of 1.3 Gigawatt (GW) is expected to begin construction in 2025. 1 GW can power about 750,000 homes.

LLDA had also signed a Renewable Energy Contract Area Utilization (RECAU) agreement with Ayala Group’s ACEN to lease 800 hectares for a 1000-megawatt (MW) project and then another agreement with Singapore-based company Vena Energy for a 200-hectare FPV project in August last year.

FPV plants are seen as one of the top options for renewable energy in the country as it does not consume any land areas that can be used for habitual, agricultural, or industrial developments, a setup perfect for an archipelago.

In addition, stakeholders claim it is more efficient because it generates more electricity than groundmount solar panels due to the cooling effect of the water. It also lessens evaporation as it covers the water.


However, it is not without its disadvantages.

A major concern with placing FPVs is its environmental and ecological impact on the ecosystem, especially considering the current situation of Laguna de Bay.

The lack of study, experience, and knowledge in its long-term impacts makes a huge disadvantage.

Fisherfolk are also concerned as to how it can affect their livelihoods as

well as the threat of natural disasters especially typhoons that plague the Philippines all year round.

These are the same concerns groups like Pamalakaya are now raising as it said it will engage with relevant government agencies like the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to present their opposition to the “profit-driven and destructive” project.

“While we recognize the need for energy transition from usual unsustainable sources to a renewable one, it should not trample on the socioeconomic rights of the fishermen and coastal communities,” Ronnel Arambulo, Pamalakaya vice chairman, said in a statement.

Boon or bane?

While environmental groups have hailed solar energy as the way to go towards divesting from fossil fuels, some concerned minds caution that solar power is not without its faults.

In a message to OpinYon Laguna, prominent labor leader Padjo Valdenor pointed out that solar energy, while proven to be a game-changer, could also (inadvertently) cause some of the environmental problems stakeholders say it will solve.

“Kung tutuusin ang power supply sa solar farm ay hindi kasing ka equivalent ng power supply mula sa power plant. Kaya nga kinakailangan relatibong maraming solar panels ang ilatag para ma convert ang sunlight sa power energy na iniimbak sa relatibo ding dami ng mga baterya para matugunan ang sapat at tamang lakas ng power. Ang ecological challenge din ay saan itatapon o iimbak ang mga used batteries na toxic din ang chemical components. So kailangan din ng lupang pagbabaunan nito ang titiyakin walang seepage na maaring makalason ng lupa at tubig,” Valdenor explained.

No matter how the government and the private sector could find a “win-win” solution to this dilemma, the activist also lamented that in the end, small fisherfolks in Laguna de Bay could end up the losers.

“Syempre ang best ay relocation ng maaapektuhan at pagbibigay ng pagsasanay para sa ibang mapaghahanapbuhayan. Middle ground o win win? Meron bang ganoong principle ang mga negosyanteng at LGU pagka itulak ang proyekto? Talo talaga ang kabuhayan ng pangisdaan at kalikasan,” he said.

(With reports by Catherine Go and James Veloso)

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