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Twin Geothermal Blessings for a Highly Urbanized City PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 05 October 2007
GEOLOGICALLY, A fault is not a mistake. It is like a fracture in orthopaedics but a break in stone, not in bone. In geology a fracture is a break in a rock formation. A rock formation is not just a pile of rocks. They make up land masses such as mountains. If the rocks on either or both sides of the plane of a fracture moves, that fracture is called a “fault”. Earthquakes shake the land because they move rock formations along faults. They also break up the land and create faults. Fault lengths are measured in kilometers, the Philippine Fault spans the whole length of our archipelago. Two fault lines - the Balsahan fault and the Montible fault -bound the north and south side respectively of Puerto Princesa Bay; from Sta. Lourdes and Sta. Lucia respectively in the Sulu Sea Coast to the mountains of Iwahig, passing by Balsahan and Montible rivers respectively. Millions of years ago, mainland Palawan didn’t have an inlet where Puerto Princesa Bay now exists (that bay did not exist before). Then a series of earthquakes over a long period of time (measured in millions of years) and occurring perhaps once every century, created the Balsahan and Montible faults and moved the rocks on both sides of them. During that time the land where Puerto Princesa Bay is now, gradually moved down relative to the land north and south of the faults respectively; eventually sinking under the surface of the sea, thus creating the bay. Both of these fault planes reach deep down to the molten bowels of the Earth and from there warm fluids rise to the surface, heating the ground water, and flow out as the Sta Lourdes in the north side of the bay, and the Sta. Lucia in the south side of the bay, hot springs.

In 1975, while fulfilling my rural practicum in Iwahig to obtain a Philippine Physician’s License, I hiked alone around the countryside a lot, at one time walking all the way from Inagauan to my grandfather’s home in Junction 1, PPC (it took me 12 hours). I noticed these two hot springs and tried to be a geologist again. At that time the Tagburos and Balsahan faults were still unmapped but the geologist in me also noticed them. After that I was employed by the Bureau of Mines (now the Mines and Geosciences Bureau) as a licensed geologist (not as physician but I was also licensed as one by then) and as such took two other colleagues with me to Palawan for a formal exploration. Apart from a technical report, I wrote a non-a technical report, I wrote a non-technical report on this for lay readers which was published in the January 22, 1976 issue of the long gone EXPRESSWEEK. I left the country in May 1977 for a United Nations post in Africa as a Physician and after going around the world, constantly dreaming of returning to Palawan one day. did return for good in January 1992. Of course I visited those two hot springs again - and continued to have, up to today, geothermal dreams about them.

As every Filipino knows, Palawan is the petroleum province of the Philippines and that is not just politically but also geologically (a related group of oil and gas fields is a “petroleum province”). Because of that, however, although Palawan has several hot springs (listed in box) even the Department of Energy ignored its potential for generating geothermal power, even just for local use. Also, it used to be that only very hot springs could generate power. Sta Lourdes, and more so Sta Lucia, were not that hot. Technology, however, is now available to harness them, technology which is used even in Iceland, the most geothermally rich country in the world. Sta Lourdes in particular, where ironically Paleco’s constantly failing and decrepit power plant is, can be used to heat a low boiling point liquid, isopentane, generating enough steam to turn turbines. The isopentane is not consumed but is simply recirculated on and on, again and again; in a system called “binary geothermal power generation”. So the isopentane, and a large volume of it is required, needs only a one-time capital investment to procure. Unlike the diesel needed by Paleco’s ancient second hand machine, the heat from the geothermal body under Sta. Lourdes is free and inexhaustible. It is also environment friendly - a blessing for us Palawenos.

Palaweños may also remember that sometime in June 2003 1 revealed to them that the Department of Energy had subdivided the continental shelf of our province into 46 blocks on offer to the highest service contract bidders in the First Philippine Petroleum Contracting Round. That was all about petroleum and only Palawan’s petroleum, no other provinces were involved. That was spearheaded by a geologist Energy Undersecretary. His successor, who is still in office but is retiring, improved on it, launching in 2005 the First Philippine Energy Contracting Round. This now involved the entire Philippine archipelago and included with petroleum (which therefore was in its second round), coal and geothermal.

Then in February 2005 the famous interim agreement for our share of the petroleum wealth of Malampaya was signed. Among the projects in the list was a medical center.

DR. GUILLERMO Balce is a colleague of mine but is not a doctor of medicine (his daughter is). He is a Phd is geology, is currently, but only up to August 31, 2007, the undersecretary of Energy and an old friend of mine. Shortly after the interim agreement was signed he summoned me to his office, he said to “talk about your medical center.” I was puzzled. What would a geologist want to talk about a medical center for? It turned out that from June 4, 2002 the DOE (Department of Energy), DOT (Department of Tourism) and PITAHC (Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care, a Department of Health agency) were bound in a Memorandum of Agreement to promote the Health Tourism Program of the Philippines. The DOE was to:
       · Identify thermal springs and their locations in the Philippines;
       · Conduct the further exploration of prioritized, low flow rate thermal springs subject to alignment with its regular work program;
       · Assist DOH in evaluating the therapeutic properties of thermal springs; and
       · Provide technical assistance in the conduct of feasibility studies to develop selected spring sites into spa resorts by investors.
        This MOA had a life of only two years, till June 2004, had not been renewed and had not really produced much. Then the Philippine Health Tourism Program was later supplanted by the Philippine Medical Tourism program. Gimo wanted a project that would exploit a geothermal resource not for power but for other uses that low temperature geothermal bodies have. He challenged me to use for medical tourism – and other purposes, Sta. Lucia, another geothermal blessing of Puerto Princesa. In the Philippine Energy contracting Round 2005, eleven geothermal prospect areas where offered for exploration (listed in box). Featured in the glossy colored brochure was:
       · Bgy. Sta. Lucia-Iwahig lies about 10 km south of the Puerto Princesa City proper in Palawan Island.
       · Hot spring temperature is about 44-560C. Geothermal study estimates a reservoir temperature ranging from 51-1360C. Type of water is determined to be slightly alkaline sodium chloride waters.
       · The resort is located in a vast city-owned coastal Environmental Estate that offers excellent vies of the adjacent forest, the mountains and the sea. Presidential Proclamation No. 718 provided the City 1,072 hectares of land (formerly Sta. Lucia Sub-Colony) for its Environmental Estate. This estate is expected to serve both as a catalyst for economic growth and a vehicle for conserving the environment. Planned for accommodation in the area are facilities for scientific research on ecology and wildlife, eco-tourism and recreation and experimental technologies. Similarly, geothermal applications such as spa development for medical tourism and other non-power use of geothermal resources may be pursued in the area.
       · Bgy. Sta. Lucia-Iwahig lies about 10 km south of the Puerto Princesa City proper in Palawan Island.
       · Hot spring temperature is about 44-560C. Geothermal study estimates a reservoir temperature ranging from 51-1360C. Type of water is determined to be slightly alkaline sodium chloride waters.
       · The resort is located in a vast city-owned coastal Environmental Estate that offers excellent vies of the adjacent forest, the mountains and the sea. Presidential Proclamation No. 718 provided the City 1,072 hectares of land (formerly Sta. Lucia Sub-Colony) for its Environmental Estate. This estate is expected to serve both as a catalyst for economic growth and a vehicle for conserving the environment. Planned for accommodation in the area are facilities for scientific research on ecology and wildlife, eco-tourism and recreation and experimental technologies. Similarly, geothermal applications such as spa development for medical tourism and other non-power use of geothermal resources may be pursued in the area.

Soon after the Interim Agreement was signed, Governor Joel T. Reyes, through Executive Order No. 05 04 created a COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A PALAWAN MEDICAL CENTER and gave me a one-peso a year appointment as his adviser for the project. Having resigned at the end of May 2004, I was then no longer the Provincial Health Officer of Palawan. Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn too appointed me his one-peso-a-year adviser and consultant. “HUC” was not yet in the local vocabulary then. In May 25, 2005 the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Palawan, in Resolution No. 6111-05 authorized THE HONORABLE GOVERNOR JOEL T. REYES TO ENGAGE THE SERVICES OF A MEDICAL CONSULTANT FOR THE PROPOSED PALAWAN MEDICAL CENTER. The million pesos contract , signed almost a year later, in May 2w9, 2006, went to Javlon.

Last year Mayor Hagedorn wrote to Energy Secretary Rafael Lotilla requesting for technical assistance to look into the possibility of putting the hot springs of Puerto Princesa to good uses. Consequently, early this year, 2007, A Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Energy, the Philippine National Oil Company – Energy Development Corporation and the City Government of Puerto Princesa for Technical Cooperation in the geothermal resource assessment of the Santa Lucia and Sta. Lourdes hot spring areas, was perfected. (To be continued)  by Dr. Jose Antonio Socrates / Palawan Times

 

 
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