LOPEZ-led First Gen Corp. said its unit had signed an agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the development of a 120-megawatt (MW) pumped-storage hydroelectric facility in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija.

“This is one of our most crucial permits. We are thrilled to be able to continue our work on the Aya Pumped-Storage project, and we are grateful for the support of our partners in DENR,” First Gen Senior Vice-President Dennis P. Gonzales said in a media release.

First Gen subsidiary First Gen Hydro Power Corp. (FGHPC) signed the special use agreement in protected areas (SAPA) with the DENR that would allow the development of the facility while also preserving the status of the project site as part of a protected area.

The signed deal will enable the company to use a 36-hectare portion of the 84,000-hectare Pantabangan-Carranglan watershed forest reserve for FGHPC’s Aya pumped-storage hydroelectric power project. The agreement is valid for 25 years and subject to renewal for another 25 years.

FGHPC said it is pursuing the Aya project to support the government’s program of meeting electricity demand while preserving low carbon emissions.

It added that the SAPA signing reaffirms its commitment to pursue the project under Republic Act No. 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (E-NIPAS).

E-NIPAS covers the country’s ecologically rich and unique areas and biologically public lands.

First Gen said FGHPC had remitted about a P69.1-million check to the DENR as SAPA fee. The unit also manages the 132-MW Pantabangan-Masiway hydroelectric power plant. — Ashley Erika O. Jose