FIRST Gen Hydro Power Corp. (FGHPC) will utilize a 36-hectare portion of the 84,000-hectare Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed Forest Reserve for its 120-megawatt (MW) Aya pumped-storage hydroelectric power project.
The subsidiary of Lopez-led First Gen Corp. said last Tuesday it signed an agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that allows FGHPC to pursue the development of the hydroelectric facility in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, while preserving the status of the project site as part of a protected area.
The agreement is valid for 25 years subject to renewal for another 25 years.
The firm said its “Special Use Agreement in Protected Areas,” or “Sapa,” agreement with the DENR “reaffirms [its] commitment” to pursue the Aya project in accordance with Republic Act (RA) 11038 (Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System, or e-Nipas, law). As part of the agreement, FGHPC officially remitted to the DENR a P69.1-million check as Sapa fee.
RA 11038 covers the country’s ecologically rich and unique areas and biologically important public lands in the country, which are under DENR’s management.
THE DENR issues a Sapa to enable productive use of the country’s protected areas by providing access to economic opportunities to indigenous people, tenured migrant communities, protected migrant communities and other protected area stakeholders. The agreement also aims to optimize the development of special-use projects, which are consistent with the principles of sustainable development and biodiversity conservation and in cooperation with stakeholders.
The FGHPC said it is pursuing the Aya project “in support of government’s program” to meet the country’s growing demand for electricity, while keeping carbon emissions low. The company already holds a hydropower service contract for the pumped storage project that the Department of Energy awarded in 2019.
A pumped-storage facility stores and generates electricity by moving a volume of water between two reservoirs situated at different elevations (upper and lower reservoirs).
ACCORDING to DENR Assistant Regional Technical Director Forester Joselito M. Blanco, the watershed forest reserve that will play a critical role in supplying power to the Luzon grid is the first ever to be awarded a SAPA in Region III or Central Luzon.
“This is one of our most crucial permits. We are grateful for the support of our partners in DENR. We are also thankful to the [LGUs] and our stakeholders for their vote of confidence in us and for choosing us as their newest partner in protecting the watershed forest reserve,” said First Gen Senior Vice President Dennis P. Gonzales.
FGHPC also manages the 132-MW Pantabangan-Masiway hydroelectric power plant, which is part of a multipurpose project that provides irrigation to Nueva Ecija’s rice lands. The complex has the country’s largest storage-type hydropower facility.
FGHPC’s hydro facilities form part of First Gen’s portfolio of power plants that run on clean and renewable energy sources. Aside from hydro, the portfolio includes geothermal, solar and wind, which are renewable energy resources; and natural gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuel.