Southeast Asias lofty gas plans pose threats to waters rich with marine life

MANILA, Philippines — For 57-year-old Tom Buitizon, the Verde Island Passage is the lifeblood of small fisherfolk like him and of millions living in southern Luzon.

The rich waters support their livelihoods and provide food for their families. 

A fisherman for over 25 years, Buitizon experienced the joy of catching as many as 20 kilos of fish many years ago and the struggle of people living on VIP’s shores who hardly find food there these days.

He said a lot has changed—for the worse—since Batangas City became the site of various industries, including fossil gas. 

“At present, I can catch only two to three kilos. Sometimes, I’m not keen to venture out to fish because the exhaustion and high cost of gasoline are not worth it,” said Buitizon, who is from San Juan town. He engages in fishing to supplement his income as a local government employee. 

Buitizon is worried that the rapid expansion of fossil gas will make pressures in the marine corridor—which is dubbed as the “Amazon of the Ocean”—worse. 

Verde Island Passage is home to 60% of all known shore fish species in the world. It is also the site of eight planned gas power plants and seven LNG terminals. 

VIP is only one of the marine frontiers in Southeast Asia threatened by gas plans in the region. According to Quezon City-based think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), Southeast Asia is swiftly turning from coal’s last bastion to Asia’s fossil gas hub. 

In a report released last month, CEED said a massive 138....

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