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The Need for a Holistic Geothermal Reportage in the Philippines

In a country located well within the Pacific Ring of Fire, one may think that geothermal energy would be one of the more popular and talked about alternative sources of clean energy in the Philippines. However, this is apparently far from real.
In a country located well within the Pacific Ring of Fire, one may think that geothermal energy would be one of the more popular and talked about alternative sources of clean energy in the Philippines. However, this is apparently far from real.

Although the Philippines has been considered as among the largest producers of geothermal power worldwide, it seems that the coverage of it in the country’s mass media industry is relatively small in terms of number.

In the last few weeks, I have been engaged in conducting content and discourse analyses of news on geothermal energy published from 2019 to 2020 in both commercial and state-owned online news websites in the Philippines.

The data gathering phase was relatively daunting as it was difficult to collect the required number of articles on geothermal. I even had to expand the number of commercial news outlets being studied due to the scarcity of news articles on such a form of renewable energy.

This led to one of my key realizations from my research–that news and
information on geothermal energy, at least in the case of commercial news outlets, are not a priority, except for some news websites that have advertisers that are geothermal energy production companies. I also found that most news on the topic are placed in the “Business” or “Money” sections and are focused more on framing geothermal energy as a business investment and not as an alternative to coal and other destructive forms of energy.

My interviews with reporters and editors have also been most insightful in identifying the constraints that cause such shortage of news on geothermal. Among which are the absence of an environmental or energy beat and the lack of company-initiated trainings on environmental or energy reportage.

Another key realization that I gained from this experience is that there is a need for a more holistic reportage of geothermal energy in the country. There should be an attempt to explain geothermal energy in a language understandable to the general public or audience. Moreover, energy reporters should not merely talk about geothermal as a business. It should also be framed as among the solutions to possible energy crises and the country’s dependence to coal. Reports that mention scientific terminologies should include explanations of their meanings and their implications to the lives of their readers and other stakeholders.

I also do hope journalists would imitate my interviewees – Kristine Sabillo of ABS-CBN and Mary Judaline Partlow and Elvie Roman-Roa of the Philippine News Agency – who are allowing themselves to be contributors to the promotion and dissemination of necessary and significant information on geothermal and other renewable energy sources. This, in turn, may contribute to the increase in the public’s knowledge and interest on renewable energy.

I do hope that, soon enough, more journalists will gather the truth, report on the truth, and stand for the truth for a sustainable Philippines and Southeast Asia. It is, after all, among the moral duties of journalists to bring the truth to the forefront no matter the cost. Of course, this would be difficult to assert due to the different political and economic motivations and agenda of both commercial and state-owned media outlets. But I think it’s still worth a try.

Media and journalism educators, such as myself, should also assume an active role in training students to develop their skills in environmental, climate, and even energy reporting.

I want my research to serve as a wake-up call for them–for us–of the urgent need to advocate for informative, understandable, and effective environmental journalism. It certainly did for me.