Even then, other barangay officials acknowledged that construction projects were only temporary.

Isa sa source ‘yun ng hanapbuhay pero di naman stable diyan e, dahil ‘pag [construction phase lang]. Pagkatapos ng ganyan, nag-abroad na sila (Construction work is a common livelihood among residents but it is not stable because it is only available during the construction phase of a project. Once the infrastructure is built, residents would find work overseas),” barangay council member Eric Landicho told PCIJ.

By the time operations begin, facilities would hire employees, such as engineers, from outside the village for specialized work, said barangay secretary Nellie Bool.

City administrator Godoy said that aside from employment opportunities, projects also brought “secondary downstream livelihood opportunities” for residents, such as operating boarding houses and small stores.


 Tax surge from LNG projects 


Power facilities also pay hefty taxes to the local government. Batangas City officials confirmed to PCIJ in January 2023 that FGEN was among its top 20 real estate taxpayers in 2022, while the four existing natural gas power plants in Batangas City, also owned by First Gen, were among the top 20 business taxpayers in 2022.

Kepco, which operated the Ilijan Power Plant for two decades, was among the top 10 business taxpayers in the city in 2015, while its new operator SPPC is among the top 20 business taxpayers in 2022.

Neither Linseed nor EERI, both of which are still constructing their gas facilities, made it to the list of top taxpayers.

Host communities, from the barangay to the regional levels, also get a share of revenues, as mandated by the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), and Energy Regulation No. 1-94.

Under government regulations, one centavo per kilowatt-hour (Php 0.01/kwh) of the total electricity sales must be allocated to the host community.

For a non-highly urbanized city, such as Batangas City, the allocation is divided as follows: electrification fund (Php 0.005), development and livelihood fund (Php 0.0025), and reforestation, watershed management, health and environment enhancement fund (Php 0.0025).

Milyon na ‘yung na-generate na pondo at milyon na rin ang projects na napagawa ng barangay, ng city, at ng province (Millions of pesos in funding were generated and millions of projects had been implemented through these projects at the barangay, city, and provincial levels),” Godoy told PCIJ. “At ‘yun namang share ng Calabarzon region ay ‘yun ang ibinibigay nila sa iba-ibang probinsya o bayan na hindi naman nagho-host ng power plant (The fund share of Calabarzon region was distributed to provinces and communities that do not host power plants).”

At the height of the pandemic, host communities were able to draw these funds for their local response under the Department of Energy (DOE) Circular No. 2020-04-0008. The funds were allocated to emergency subsidies, mass testing-related costs, and protective equipment for health frontliners, among others. According to DOE data, total remittances reached P4.6 billion covering the period September 2019 to July 2021.

With more LNG projects lined up, the local government is expecting more revenues.

Five of the so far seven approved LNG terminal projects and two of three committed gas-fired power plants are in Batangas City, according to the DOE. This does not include other LNG projects in the pipeline.


 Those whom progress neglects 


To residents of Ilijan, there was no question that their standard of living improved after the power facilities were built.

In the past, they needed to schedule trips to the city center via motorized boats. The roads have since been paved and widened. Sons and daughters of residents were also able to earn college degrees and become salaried employees. Homes made of cement replaced their wooden houses, and new businesses sprouted.

Amid continued progress in their village, fishers have accepted that their better days were long gone.

Mas maganda ‘yung naging benepisyo ngayon dahil marami ang natutulungan. ‘Yung katulad namin, e di hanggang doon laang (The benefits were worth it because they helped many residents. For us fishermen, there’s nothing more we can do about it),” Juan said. “Pagka hanggang doon ka lang, kahit ano’ng gawin mo, hanggang doon ka lang (Whatever we do, that’s all there is for us).”

“If LNG projects were to be stopped, what would happen to those who benefit from them?” asked Raymundo in Filipino. “Mas marami ang nagtatrabaho dine sa hindi… Matatanda na naman kami, e di dito na laang ako sa tabi (There are more residents benefiting from employment opportunities provided by the projects than those who do not. We’re past our prime anyway, so we won’t stand in the way).

This may spell the end of fishing in Ilijan, with the younger generation disinterested in the trade and more residents preferring manual labor, salaried employment, and work overseas.

Walang mahuli at mataas ang konsumo (ng gasolina). Ang iba, hindi na nag-restore ng bangka nila. Parang umayaw na sila sa pangingisda (Fish are few and [fuel prices] are soaring. Other fishers decided not to restore their boats anymore. It’s as if they have given up on fishing),” said Daquis.

Kaya paubos na kami (We’re almost gone),” he said.