Resolute Stand

Mayor Domingo S. Halum’s unwavering stand for a NO Geothermal in Bulusan is clearly stated in this tarp streamer. Bulusan, February 2014.

Resolute adjective \ˈre-zə-ˌlüt, -lət\

: very determined : having or showing a lot of determination (Source: Merriam-Webster dictionary).

This is exactly what the town of Bulusan needs in voicing out their opposition on the planned establishment of a geothermal power plant in Mt. Bulusan/Bulusan Volcano — a resolute stand on the issue.

The geo project is a dream for some but a nightmare for us living in the periphery and slopes of our beloved mountain – Bulusan Volcano. All the 24 barangays or villages of Bulusan are within the 15 km radius of the Volcano. The Poblacion (my residence) for instance is just a mere 8 km from the center.

Phivolcs (Philippine Institute of Volcanology) is clear about the physical features of the volcano as published in their Bulusan Volcano Profile. It says that the volcano base is 400 square kilometers. This covers almost all the 5 municipalities of Bulusan, Barcelona, Irosin, Juban and Casiguran. It is ONE volcano contrary to the opinion of some that exploring the other minor mountains inside the composite Bulusan Volcano is already reason enough to stop the opposition.

It is my hope that the other Municipal mayors of the concerned municipalities will follow suit.

No to Geothermal exploration in the mountains of Bulusan Volcano!

Note: Bulusan Volcano is a composite volcano numbering more than 8 edifices. It has a base of 400 sq. kilometers equivalent to more than 40,000 hectares. (Source: Phivolc’s Bulusan Volcano Profile)

Bulusan Volcano on a clear day showing some of its edifices/mountains.

Bulusan Volcano on a sunny day showing some of its edifices/mountains.

Related posts :

Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines


Kasanggayahan and the Bulusan Geothermal Project according to the Good Bishop

Kasanggayahan 2013

Crowd fills a local mall long veranda during the opening of Kasanggayahan Festival, October 17, 2013 in Sorsogon City.

Strong words comprised the message of Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes spoken  during the Kasanggayahan festivities on  the planned  Geothermal Power Project in Bulusan. These words  were  the most forceful so far coming from the Bishop  in reiterating the anti-exploration/exploitation stand of the constituents of Bulusan and neighboring towns of Irosin and Casiguran delivered at an event where supporters of the pro geothermal exploration from the government and big business were present.

I lifted  part of the  statement of Bishop Arturo Bastes which was published in the  CBCP news site ( for the information  of my town mates who are supporting the environmental conservation stand. It is also particularly addressed to  the proponents of  the exploitation of Bulusan Volcano/Mt. Bulusan for geothermal power generation for them to shift their gears and focus their activities somewhere else in places where there are no communities that will be negatively impacted resulting from such ‘development’.

Here it is:

“The government and its geothermal project contractor Summa Kumagai Inc. (SKI) betray the spirit of Kasanggayahan Festival for pushing their geothermal prospect in the province despite strong opposition, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said.

In a statement on Saturday following a Mass in Magallanes town, Bastes said the government and SKI’s geothermal dream threatens to destroy the natural resources of the province.

The term Kasanggayahan means prosperity, he said. The gifts of nature like Bulusan Volcano, Bulusan Lake, cold and hot springs in the towns of Bulusan and Irosin, marine resources, and agricultural riches are in danger of being annihilated if the project pushes through.

“Since we have a good faith, we have the responsibility to carry on in protecting nature,” Bastes said. “With the geothermal plant, they will destroy Bulusan Lake. They will destroy Sorsogon.”

Bastes called on the people of Sorsogon to support the Catholic Church in its crusade to preserve the local environment and foil any attempt to bring it down to destruction. ”

We hope those in power both in government and business will heed the Bishop’s warning so that the next generations of Sorsoganons  especially us, Bulusanons will  experience more Kasanggayahan in perpetuity with the preservation of Mt Bulusan’s immeasurable  ecosystem services from drinking water to climate change shield of those living in its midst – us.

Photo by Alma P. Gamil

Earlier post about Bulusan Geothermal:

No to Bulusan Volcano Fragmentation

No to Bulusan Volcano Fragmentation

Bulusan Volcano as viewed from Bulusan town.

This is a wake-up call. Bulusan Volcano is being fragmented right in front and under the noses of anti Geothermal advocates of Bulusan. Complacency is as baneful as indifference  when it comes to issues such as the Bulusan Volcano Geothermal Question. Be very very cautious is in my opinion the best course of action  for some anti Bulusan Geothermal advocates in Bulusan for them not to be misled and be convinced that exploiting geothermal energy on one side (Juban town side to be specific) of the volcano is benign and will be safer than exploiting the Bulusan town side of it.  For me, it is akin to a head where the frontal part has complete anatomical features while the back side is full of pock marks. Totally illogical.

I am totally against this kind of fragmentation that will  inevitably surface albeit done stealthily by some quarters with their own agenda far from the agenda being espoused by the anti Bulusan Geothermal advocates. I am against it because in the final analysis converting one side of the volcano into an industrial complex for exploiting geothermal energy is tantamount to giving up the whole.  Bulusan Volcano after all is ONE volcano.

I have already argued endlessly on why Mt Bulusan/Bulusan Volcano is an unwise choice of location for  Geothermal exploration in several posts  to the point of repetition but I will not stop doing so.

For instance this note from my previous blog post:

Mt. Bulusan is an active volcano, one of the five intensely active volcanoes  in the Philippines (Taal, Mayon, Bulusan, Kanlaon and Hibok-hibok) whose location is close enough to large communities to be of major concern.The Philippines has a total of 405 volcanoes of which  23 are active,  27 potentially active and 355 inactive according to the released information from Phivolcs.

Given this fact, why pick on Bulusan when there are so many other volcanoes in the Philippines?

A refresher:

Photo by Alma P. Gamil

Watershed 101

Mount Bulusan

Bulusan Volcano, a composite mountain provides ecosystem services to the communities surrounding it from drinking water to farm irrigation. The effects of climate change are barely felt here due to its ‘micro climate’ shield. While other areas may suffer drought, this area remains protected from dry spell.


Fresh water spring in nearby Palogtoc offers mountain fresh drinking water that I call ‘the champagne of drinking waters’ in the entire region.


Brook as clear as your tap water is a common sight in Bulusan.

I came across with the best definition of watershed lately in my quest for answers to questions related to the Geothermal issue in my hometown Bulusan.  The definition was the simplest yet the most enlightening in the course of my search for answers.

It reads:

What is a Watershed?

A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is:

“that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.” (Source:

This definition makes sense in this paragraph detailing the effects of Geothermal energy extraction in a rainforest that says:

Water Cycles

“Geothermal wells disrupt the natural water cycles of rain forest ecosystems, which can be quite fragile. The deforestation that occurs in the immediate vicinity of the wells leads to erosion and disruption of streams and rivers. The wells affect underground aquifers and can change the direction of underground water flows. The continuous usage of deep water sources can change the temperature and composition of aquifers, leading to disruption of water distribution on the surface where trees, other plants and animals are dependent on it.”

Recommended reading:

Related post:

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Mt. Kanlaon shares her lessons


Mt. Bulusan rainforest is a key biodiversity area (KBA) with a very high rate of endemism.

This is the full statement of Save Mount Kanlaon Coalition (SMKC). It  offers much insight to the Geothermal Question still hanging like an ominous cloud in Bulusan and neighboring towns for more than a year now since the historic  Bulusan Anti Geo Rally of 2011.

May these collective voices enlighten  the remaining few Pro Geo Bulusanons  who are still dazzled of that Geo dream.

The SMKC stand on the Geothermal issue continues to reverberate to communities like Bulusan after this was published, July 2011.

“We at the Save Mt. Kanlaon Coalition and the Negros Environment Watch continue to relentlessly resist the EDC encroachment within the MKNP today, and we are strongly urging the government to put a stop to EDC’s operations. The EDC project violated certain provisions of our Constitution, which is the subject of the case we filed in court against the EDC, the local government units and the national government agencies concerned.

The Mt. Kanlaon Law which allows EDC to conduct its operations inside the MKNP was passed without properly observing the prescribed requirements of holding consultations with the affected sectors and stake holders during its preparation, thereby railroading the sanctity of the democratic process. This is in direct violation of the right of the people and their organizations to participate in governance; and other rights guaranteed by our constitution.

The EDC project has only succeeded to degrade a wide swath of Mt. Kanlaon, alter its boundaries, cut down thousands of old forest trees, destroy critical wildlife habitat, defy environmental laws, and eventually, wasted billions of pesos worth of public funds. Worse, EDC’s encroachment into the 169 hectare “buffer zone” of Mt. Kanlaon is patently illegal as the project’s 1995 ECC (Environmental Compliance Certificate) is not for the 169 hectares of primary forest but for areas described in the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement as 50% grassland and open areas, 32% cropland, and 18% secondary forest. (Note: Under Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1586 establishing the Environmental Impact Statement System and Presidential Proclamation No. 2146 defining the scope of the system, Environmentally critical projects (ECPs) located in environmentally critical areas (ECAs) like a primary forest require an Environmental Impact Assessment to give said areas the highest protection especially from resource extractive activities.)

EDC has made a name for itself and for the Lopezes, both nationally and internationally, for its Green Energy projects and its partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, but contrary to this repution, EDC ‘s maintaining of its geothermal wells inside a “buffer zone” that is actually 169 hectares of primary forest with high biodiversity only perpetuates the continued rape of Mt. Kanlaon and of democracy itself.

In view of all these, we demand that EDC remove all of its civil works from the “buffer zone,” rehabilitate the area, and account or pay for the destruction perpetrated in Mt. Kanlaon and its environs. EDC should also turn-over the 169 hectare “buffer zone” to the MKNP PAMB, in compliance with Section 5, RA 9154, which states: “…areas within the buffer zone which shall not be used directly for the development and utilization of geothermal energy shall remain under the control and jurisdiction of the PAMB.”

We further call on our governor and the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to terminate the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement with EDC and to require EDC to immediately discontinue its operations in the “buffer zone.” We also call on our Congressmen with the strong support of our governor and Provincial Sanggunian, to amend RA 9154 so that the 169 hectare “buffer zone” is re-established as part of the protected area of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park, a correct buffer zone established outside of its perimeter, and the EDC is removed as a permanent member of the MKNP PAMB and PAMB Executive Committee.”

Signed in behalf of NEW and SMKC:

Fr. Aniceto Buenafe (SAC)
Fr. Ernie Larida (NEW)
Atty. Andrea Si (SMKC)
Delia Locsin (PsPN/Neg. Caucus)
Edwin Balajadia (PRRM-Negros)
Priscilla Goco (FDC-Negros)
Donato FlordeLiza (GreenWatch Phils.)


Four Laws of Ecology: A Review and a timely reminder for the Bulusan Geothermal Project

Bulusan Lake

Bulusan Lake photo by

Four Laws of Ecology

One of Commoner’s lasting legacies is his four laws of ecology, as written in The Closing Circle in 1971. The four laws are:

  1. Everything Is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.
  2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.
  3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”
  4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.

Sources: Barry Commoner by Wikipedia. “The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology” by Barry Commoner, 1971.

In Bulusan, Environmental Security means No Geothermal

“Environmental security is the highest form of national security.” Borrowed from a statement attributed to P-noy (President Aquino), this is Bulusan’s rallying cry in its continued opposition for the planned Geothermal Power Plant development in Mount Bulusan.

Ironic because it is the very state (DoE) that is pushing its establishment.  But Bulusan folks know exactly the many geothermal risks of hosting the said Power Plant. The planned  industrial development will convert the last remaining original rainforest of the province  into a Geothermal Field zone of around 25,959 hectares, irrevocably altering its land use.  For how could we reconcile nature conservation and nature exploitation?

Bulusan and neighboring towns however are confident that their voices will be heard.
For one, they have the highest law of the land on their side:

The 1987 Constitution mandates the right to a healthy environment via Sec. 16, Art. II of the Philippine Constitution which provides that: “The state shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” Section 15 of the same Article provides that: “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

Signs of Steam in Mount Bulusan

Mount Bulusan, an active volcano of composite mountains, forms interesting cloud formations probably signs of steam. A key biodiversity area (KBA) with 43% endemism, it is the last remaining original rainforest of the province of Sorsogon.

Newly irrigated rice fields

Golden morning sunlight is reflected in this newly irrigated rice field in a farming village of Bulusan. Water is abundant year round from Mount Bulusan- a prime watershed area serving 5 municipalities in its immediate vicinity and 5 more neighboring adjacent towns.

Bugas Spring

Bugas Spring is just one of the many mountain springs that dot the whole landscape of Bulusan town. Household tap with the freshest mountain spring water is the cheapest in the province at 25Php per month of almost unlimited use.

Bulusan Lake

Not just pure beauty. Bulusan Lake is a nature-made water embankment that ensures a perpetual supply of mountain fresh water to the communities surrounding Mount Bulusan. Most of Bulusan’s  countless springs can be traced coming from here.

Signature for a Mountain

My signature is in there, too. I share the same view with my town mates that the Geothermal Power Plant establishment in Mount Bulusan will endanger our very own habitat.

Bountiful rice harvest

Irrigation waters supplied by Mount Bulusan ensure triple harvest than the usual even during the El nino months.


Mount Bulusan is home to the Pili, Bicol’s flagship crop. The mountain’s forest is cited as the center of origin and the center of genetic diversity of the pili species in the world.

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan LGU’s Shining Moment for Ecology

Bulusan Municipal Hall photo:

Bulusan, Sorsogon

Photo by Alma P. Gamil

“In 2011, the local government of Bulusan passed a resolution to strengthen its opposition on the geothermal energy exploration project pushed by the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE saw the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP) as a viable source of some 40 megawatts of geothermal power after a five-year exploration and construction activities. The local government of Bulusan was quick to oppose this activity by passing a resolution against geothermal energy exploration in the municipality. The plan calls for a pre-development and development stage which would necessitate drilling of exploratory wells deep to the earth‟s core, clearing of the forest, and construction of geothermal plants, power turbines, and toxic waste tailing ponds. ” ( paper by Cris Sarmiento, 2012)

A clarification though,  the area in question is  not the BVNP area  but its immediately adjacent surroundings. The area to be explored from what I’ve heard at  the IEC  given by the Geothermal company year 2011, is actually 25,959 hectares, an area approximately six times larger than BVNP. The BVNP is a protected area comprising only of 3,673.29 hectares.

As already being cited in many papers,  the SB resolution Number 55-2011 passed November 14, 2011 by LGU Bulusan is now a landmark municipal resolution on environment in the Philippines from a Local Government Unit voicing  its opposition for Geothermal power development inappropriately sited in an ecologically rich area-such as Mount Bulusan.

The main focus of Bulusan’s present administration is ecotourism with flagship programs highlighting the town’s natural beauty including the countless mountain springs dotting the area of concern. Bulusan Lake, a major tourism destination of the province  is located inside the natural park.

Related post:

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

‘Green’ Geothermal in Bulusan : Here’s the caveat

'Green' Geothermal in Bulusan : Here's the caveat

Mount Bulusan as viewed from our family house azotea in Poblacion Central, Bulusan.

Impacts on Water Resources
The extraction, reinjection, and discharge of geothermal fluids
may affect the quality and quantity of surface and groundwater
resources. Examples of specific impacts include the inadvertent
introduction of geothermal fluids into shallower productive
aquifers during extraction and reinjection activities or a reduction
in the flow of hot thermal springs due to withdrawal activities.

(Source: EHS Guidelines for Geothermal Power Generation, World Bank Group)

I am personally not against Geothermal Energy development.  What I am against is the inappropriate choice of the location. Mount Bulusan is at the center of 5 large communities– including my town (which lies within the 8 km radius from the center). Five more towns are adjacent to these “volcano”  towns. A total of 10 municipalities with population of  around 500,000. Google map shows that Bulusan Volcano is like a heart in the middle of the South central part of Sorsogon Province. Its mountains (it is a composite mountain) is one of the last remaining rainforests of  Bicol region with 43 % endemism, meaning some of its flora and fauna exist nowhere else but here.

I drink from the water flowing in our tap filtered by the rainforest and aquifers of  Mount Bulusan. Our daily rice consumption is locally grown, irrigated by the waters of Mount Bulusan. I bath with the crystal clear waters of Mount Bulusan. And so much more.

The planned  Geothermal industrial power plant (40MW, initial) will require the conversion of the surroundings of Mount Bulusan (around 26,000 hectares) into a Geothermal field zone atop our residential communities. I share the concerns of many including the studies already published in journals that the toxic waste water is not guaranteed to be  leakproofed and will ultimately leach into groundwater. In addition,  the storage/dump ponds for extra waste water and sludge  are vulnerable to the more than 20 typhoons that visit Bicol region annually.

Photo: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

A soft cry from the fringes of Mount Bulusan

In Mt Bulusan’s lore, a bird also looms large. The original names of some villages around the periphery of Bulusan Volcano even today still pay homage to the bird.

The names of Barangay Layog (to fly), Macabari (break : breaking branch), Tagdon (to alight) and Mapapac (bird’s ancient name) will forever remind us that once from the distant past one powerful bird made Mount Bulusan his home.

Mount Bulusan

Mount Bulusan seen from Bulusan town in its more feminine form.

A mirage of a bird spirit continually appears in my Bulusan’s mountainscape lately. And recently a real Brahminy Kite* in the mountain forest of Bulusan seems to be sending signals of things to come–an ominous one. The news of Geothermal full implementation of the exploration stage brings chills to us residents of this magical mountain’s fringes. Not surprising, since at stake is around 26,000 hectares atop the mountain within the periphery of the volcano more than six times larger than Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP). A prime watershed area that will be converted to a vast Geothermal field zone.


Mount Bulusan as viewed from Irosin side– more masculine form.

“When our ancestors looked for a settlement to build a community, this area was the perfect choice because of its abundant waters for agriculture and domestic use. It is here that for thousands of years our forefathers were able to build 5 large communities, the towns of Bulusan, Irosin, Casiguran, Barcelona, Juban and neighboring towns flourished (total population: 500,000). It is because of the abundant water source from the mountains servicing our needs,”  says one local resident voicing his apprehension on the planned conversion.

The mountain of Bulusan is the world’s center of origin and center of genetic diversity of Canarium ovatum (source : Roberto Coronel Pili monograph).  Canarium ovatum is  simply ‘Pili’ to us in Bulusan.

It will take another earth to have another cocktail of heavy dose of rainfall, Pacific ocean’s breeze, rainforest mix and a Volcano to have another Pili species.

Pili is Bicol’s heritage flora in essence by the very definition of what a natural heritage comprises. It is our duty to preserve it in perpetual existence. It is our duty to protect and preserve its natural habitat– Mount Bulusan. It is our gift to the world.

*The Brahminy Kite is sacred in most of Southeast Asian countries. It is the manifestation of Garuda, the mount of Vishnu.

Photographs by

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines