In 2002, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan stood before the UN General Assembly and said, “Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract – sustainable development – and turn it into a reality for all the world’s people.” A decade and a half later, sustainable development remains one of the biggest challenges faced by the public and private sectors.
“Over the past several years, we’ve seen the role of the private sector grow and businesses taking a larger and more active role in contributing to sustainable development,” says SN Aboitiz Power-Benguet’s (SNAP-Benguet) Vice President and Chief Corporate Services Officer, Atty. Mike Hosillos. “SNAP is committed to doing business responsibly, and one aspect of this is bringing a renewed focus on environmental sustainability.”
The company is launching a standalone sustainability program consisting of projects that promote the protection and conservation of the country’s natural resources, starting with the communities where SNAP’s facilities are located. In the municipalities of Bokod and Itogon in Benguet province, where the Ambuklao and Binga hydroelectric power plants are located, SNAP has undertaken a number of projects to alleviate the degradation of natural resources. SNAP has also partnered with other organizations on environmental initiatives such as the Aboitiz Passion for Agroforestry and Reforestation to Keep (APARK), the McConnell Dowell (MCD) Reforestation Project, and a technical cooperation program with the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) and National Power Corporation (NPC), which owns the Ambuklao and Binga dams.
Since 2009, SNAP has planted 32,815 seedlings through its tree-planting program; 74,578 under APARK; and 67,127 with MCD for a total of 233,647 seedlings as of 2016. APARK, the Aboitiz Group’s greening program, aims to restore forest cover by planting fruit-bearing and forest trees. Its target: nine million trees planted by 2020. MCD was SNAP-Benguet’s partner in the Ambuklao rehabilitation project, and it has also planted seedlings within the watershed as part of its compliance activities. SNAP-Benguet’s technical cooperation agreement with NPC and PSALM, which was signed in 2010, protects areas adjacent to the reservoir through the establishment of firelines and regular patrolling. Since 2011, the company has been supporting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ National Greening Program by providing seedling production funds to the Baguio Regreening Movement.
SNAP is currently finalizing a Sustainability Policy oriented around collaborative watershed management towards more value-added and meaningful impact to its host communities. This policy recognizes the key importance of partnerships that SNAP will establish with stakeholders for a programmed and results-driven approach to managing watersheds.
The company targets a watershed management study for Ambuklao and Binga to determine not only critical watershed conditions that pose operational and business risks to SNAP’s hydro plants, but also help develop a long-term watershed management plan that will guide SNAP’s sustainability investments in Benguet. The watershed management plan is meant to harmonize with local development plans and the initiatives of watershed management councils, IP organizations, and other relevant sectors. iWatershed or the Integrated Watershed Management Information System project, due to be launched in late 2017, will function as a repository of geographic information system-based information and real-time data on the status of watersheds scoped by SNAP’s operations, especially on critical conditions such as water inflow, land use, soil erosion, and disaster vulnerability. It will also work as a decision support system in predicting the spatial impact of investments and business prospects on the watershed level.
“Simply put, sustainability is based on the principle that our quality of life depends on the quality of our natural environment,” Hosillos says. “We operate on this principle – that development should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We are taking a fresh approach by strengthening SNAP’s sustainability program, treating it as separate from, but as a complement of, our corporate social responsibility program.”