A unit of First Gen Corp. and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have forged a deal that allows the Lopez firm to pursue the development of a 120-megawatt (MW) pumped storage hydroelectric facility in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija.
First Gen said the Special Use Agreement in Protected Areas (SAPA) enables its unit First Gen Hydro Power Corp. (FGHPC) to use a 36-hectare portion of the 84,000-hectare Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed Forest Reserve for its Aya pumped-storage hydroelectric power project.
The agreement, which was executed recently, is valid for 25 years and subject to renewal for another 25 years.
First Gen said the SAPA reaffirms FGHPC's commitment to pursue the Aya Project in accordance with Republic Act 11038, also known as the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act.
E-NIPAS, which covers the country's ecologically rich and unique areas and biologically important public lands in the country, is under DENR's management as mandated by RA 11038.
'This is one of our most crucial permits. We are thrilled to be able to continue our work on the Aya pumped-storage project, and 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,' First Gen senior vice president Dennis Gonzales said.
The DENR issues 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.
FGHPC said the Aya project is in support of the 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).
As part of the agreement, FGHPC officially remitted to the DENR a P69.1 million check as SAPA fee.