Negros geothermal steam vents typhoon-proofed for public safety

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QUICK READ: Energy Development Corporation assists in typhoon-proofing Mag-aso steam vents for tourist and community safety.

STEAM VENTS. A box culvert and debris interceptor are now in place to address the landslide, mudflow, and drainage problems at the Mag-aso steam vents in Valencia town, Negros Oriental province. The geothermal steam vents are becoming a renowned tourist attraction as thick sulfuric emissions can actually be observed from the roadside, a unique experience that cannot be seen anywhere else in the province.

DUMAGUETE CITY – The renowned tourist destination Mag-aso steam vents at Barangay Malabo in Valencia town, Negros Oriental province is now typhoon-proofed for public safety.


More visitors are now visiting the place to have their selfies and group pictures taken or have a little “exposure” to geothermal steam, which many believe has natural healing powers.


The geothermal manifestation, which includes steam vents and a mud pool, has become a tourist draw as thick sulfuric emissions can actually be observed from the roadside, a unique experience that cannot be seen anywhere else in the province.


“It showcases the abundance of clean and renewable geothermal power in the province, which has been blessing the region for almost four decades,” the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), which operates the geothermal power plants in Valencia, said in a media release on Friday.


However, in recent years, the site has become increasingly susceptible to landslides and mudslides during and after heavy rains, EDC noted.


As this poses a significant risk to the community and tourists, EDC, through its Specialized Shared Services team, in collaboration with local contractor Southern Negros Geothermal Cooperative (SONEGCO) Logistics and Construction Services (SOLCONS) Inc., embarked late last year on the construction of a high-quality box culvert and debris interceptor for drainage purposes.


“The mud that flows down from the hillside will go directly to box culvert while the debris interceptor will act as a barrier for rocks and other landslide matter,” said Norreen Bautista, EDC’s Corporate Relation Department Head for Negros, in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.


Bautista said this is a long-term precautionary response even though in previous years, EDC would immediately deploy teams for road clearing during landslides and mudslides in the area.


The road that passes through the Mag-aso steam vents is a primary access road that connects to at least five barangays in Valencia, including the EDC’s main office and geothermal sites, she said.


Not only will this project benefit tourists and road users, but the residents in these barangays as well, as this is also a farm-to-market road leading from the mountain villages down to the lowlands, Bautista added.


Phil Calumpang, a resident of Malabo whose family owns a farm further up from where the steam vents are located, said he hopes the newly-constructed box culvert and debris interceptor will be a more permanent solution to the landslide problem.

“In the past, it would take an hour or so to clear the landslide debris that renders the road impassable, and the only other way for us to access our property is a very long route via a road from Sibulan town,” he said.


Calumpang also noted that this is a vital road leading to tourist spots like the Pulangbato Waterfalls, the Red Rock Hot Springs, and other resorts up in the mountains of Valencia.


What is being done at the Mag-aso passage is just the “tip of the iceberg”, said Engr. Bong Necesito, Senior Engineer of EDC’s Specialized Shared Services team in Negros.


He explained that in the past, multiple retaining walls were built, but most of the structures were damaged during typhoons.


This time, they built PHP15 million worth of groins to stabilize the area against erosion. The Mag-aso box culvert and debris interceptor consist of a retaining wall and a box culvert that allows water to flow under roads without disrupting traffic.


“The box culvert and debris interceptor serve as waterway passage that drains high volumes of rainwater. This way, we manage the increased water flow rates during the rainy season and decrease the likelihood of flooding and mudslides due to improved drainage,” Necesito added.


He said the structures had been built to withstand harsh weather conditions, making these an essential feature for the residents of Malabo and the surrounding barangays.


Valencia Mayor Edgar Teves Jr. has thanked the EDC for undertaking the project, noting that the company is “undeniably one of our biggest benefactors.”


“We always reach out to them for support, and we are grateful to the teams involved in materializing this project which is beneficial to the people of Valencia,” Teves was quoted in the media release as saying.


Meanwhile, Bautista said they are hoping that a proposal to build a new access road in the Mag-aso area, in cooperation with the provincial government, will be approved.


She said they had already initially discussed this with Governor Roel Degamo weeks before he was shot dead along with eight others last March 4.


Bautista said a new access road would de-clog the current road and would further ensure the safety of those visiting the Mag-aso steam vents.


EDC is First Gen Corporation’s 100 percent renewable energy subsidiary with over 1,480MW total installed capacity, which accounts for 20 percent of the country’s total installed renewable energy capacity.


Its almost 1,200MW geothermal portfolio comprises 62 percent of the country’s total installed geothermal capacity and has put the Philippines on the map as the 3rd largest geothermal producer in the world. (PNA)