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The Philippines goes all in for natural gas, a climate pollutant

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Sea turtles still scramble from the waters of Batangas Bay, paddling up the sand to bury their eggs. Coral reefs that some marine biologists call the Amazon of the ocean lie just offshore, home to giant clams, nurturing small fish, which in turn are prey for manta rays.

But above the surface the land is changed. The fishing village of Santa Clara is now surrounded by four power generating stations, all burning natural gas.

The construction isn’t over. Four more power plants that burn natural gas are planned for the coastline. What was a string of fishing villages is now an industrial zone.

A man swims beside corals off of Verde Island, Batangas province, Philippines on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The Philippines is going all in for electricity made via climate-damaging combustion, with almost two dozen power stations planned and the ambition to become a gas hub for the entire Asia Pacific region.

When natural gas is super-chilled into a liquid, special tanker ships can transport millions of cubic feet of it at a time, and the global trade in liquified natural gas or LNG is growing fast.

It’s one of the world’s largest natural gas power buildouts and will contribute to climate change at a time when alternative, renewable electricity has never been cheaper.

The Philippines is planning one of world’s biggest buildouts of natural gas infrastructure, with almost two dozen power plants announced and ambitions to become a hub for liquified natural gas for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

“It’s mindboggling that the Philippines, a climate-vulnerable country, would still pursue dirty fuels which exacerbate climate disasters,” said Gerry Arances, executive director of the Philippine nonprofit Center for Energy, Ecology and Development.

Natural gas causes warming of the atmosphere both when it leaks out, unburned, and when it is burned for heat or electricity. Experts who have studied the country found its future growth could be met entirely with renewables; reliance on natural gas will make power more expensive for Filipinos and there will be other environmental costs.

Residents Joseph Vargas, president of a fishing