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Propagating native tree species through geothermal energy

Building a decarbonised and regenerative future through forest restoration.
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Long before today’s global pivot to sustainability, we at Energy Development Corporation (EDC) have been at the forefront of climate action in the Philippines by pioneering geothermal energy production across the archipelago since 1976. At present, we are the largest vertically integrated geothermal energy producer in the world and the Philippines’ largest all-renewable energy company.


Regeneration through reforestation

At the heart of these achievements is an unalienable commitment to protect and propagate trees and forest cover for the role that they play in geothermal energy production. Water beneath the ground is naturally heated by the Earth’s core and produces steam, which is then harnessed and transformed into electricity. Thus, the abundance of moisture in the earth is critical in sustaining geothermal reservoirs for energy production, and trees are the single most vital factor in ensuring this. Trees are also the first line of response in decarbonising the atmosphere.

BINHI (the Filipino word for “seed”) and its greening legacy hold pride of place as EDC’s flagship corporate social responsibility programme. It is a reforestation and watershed management programme and EDC’s most important regenerative strategy contributing to the continued viability of our geothermal business. With BINHI’s particular focus on identifying and propagating endangered and threatened endemic species, the trees planted under the programme enjoy a high success rate of survival as they are distributed and planted across the Philippine archipelago.

Our dedicated team of BINHI foresters work with farmers to bridge forest gaps by propagating our 96 threatened Philippine native tree species

EDC’s major areas of geothermal operation – in the provinces of Bicol in Luzon; Leyte and Negros Oriental in the Visayas; and North Cotabato in Mindanao – serve as the primary sites of BINHI reforestation. The programme thus enjoys extensive and complete coverage being contingent on EDC’s geothermal sites and being present in all three major island groups of the Philippines. As of 2021, BINHI has planted a total of six million trees across a total of 10,140 hectares of reforested areas and 100 tree parks and arboreta.

More than attaining sustainability, which is largely defined as keeping the environment the same way one had found it, regeneration is the next-level challenge for us today. It entails developing and nurturing more resources for the benefit of future generations. BINHI and its legacy are a prime example of this by ensuring energy security for generations to come through geothermal means.

We have five vegetative materials reproduction facilities or automated nurseries to propagate our flagship BINHI tree species

Emphasising a multi-sectoral approach

BINHI is the most important and effective articulation of our mission – “to forge collaborative pathways for a decarbonised and regenerative future.” All throughout the BINHI process – from identification and assessment of endemic tree species especially those under threat of extinction, gathering and propagation of samples, distribution of seedlings for planting to continuous monitoring and protection of the trees, constant biodiversity monitoring activities, and bridging forest gaps in our areas of operation – strategic partnerships play a critical role. This multi-sectoral approach has established BINHI as a far-reaching and institutionalised CSR endeavour and the largest private sector-led forest restoration initiative in the Philippines.

We work primarily with citizen groups in our communities of operation, along with non-profit and socio-civic organisations, local government units and relevant government agencies, as well as like-minded enterprises in the private sector. Through this process, BINHI also serves as a stakeholder engagement platform and has enabled vital behavioural change. For example, BINHI has identified farmers practising environmentally harmful slash-and-burn methods in the Negros Islands and has guided them towards regenerative agriculture. In this vein, these farmers gained a lucrative source of livelihood in the form of coffee farming and sales. They were transformed from being adversaries of the environment to being its stewards.

On the global scale, we have been the sole Philippine partner in the Global Tree Assessment (GTA) programme of Europe-based Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), the world’s largest plant conservation network and the secretariat of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

As the BGCI’s Global Tree Assessment partner in the Philippines, our BINHI team has assessed the status of 1,470 Philippine endemic and near endemic tree species, 919 of which have been published in the IUCN Red List online

Attaining energy security for Filipinos

For 15 years now, BINHI has remarkably and consistently helped us attain our mission to secure a cleaner and regenerative future of energy for Filipinos. We engage with over 200 partner institutions and organisations and 88 forest communities that are home to more than 500 species of fauna.

Most importantly, to date, EDC is the only Philippine company that successfully absorbs more carbon than it emits thanks to efforts such as BINHI. In 2021, the BINHI forests in EDC’s geothermal operations absorbed over 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). This is on top of close to 7 million tCO2e avoided by our overall renewable energy operations – geothermal plus hydro, wind and solar – that produced a total of a little over 9,000 gigawatt hours of clean power in lieu of coal or fossil fuels.

Needless to say, BINHI will endure as our organisation’s lasting contribution to our country’s climate action goals. It is also our response to the call of steward leadership where businesses are increasingly called upon to utilise our natural resources in the most conscientious and impactful manner possible. It is our hope that BINHI spreads its roots and establishes a stronger foundation of a secure energy future not just for the Philippines but for the region and the world.

Posted 01 February 2024

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