By ELINANDO B. CINCO
The Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), which is composed of 34 industry associations and 120 corporation-manufacturing members, is pushing for the immediate construction of new power plants to secure the country’s long-term power requirements and support the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
Amid concerns on supply and increasing prices of basic consumer goods and commodities, FPI urged the power industry – including the Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and private companies – to work together to ensure that electricity supply and prices will not be an additional burden to consumers.
Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza, chairman of FPI, said various industries are already experiencing the impact of inflation, which is being reflected on the costs of basic goods and commodities.
“We want the power industry to step up and do something, so we can prevent a potential problem on electricity supply,” said industrialist Arranza, noting that building more power plants and bringing in more supply to the market can bring down power prices.
FPI also raised alarm that most of the power plants in the Philippines are already 15 years old or older, which make them more prone to unplanned outages.
It questioned the motive of other groups that consistently block and oppose the construction of new power projects amid concerns on unnecessary delays that many projects are experiencing.
The group cited the planned 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power project of Atimonan One Energy, Inc. (A1E), which has yet to start construction due to pending regulatory approvals. Power plants of that scale take around 4 to 5 years to build.
“The Atimonan project is an example of a very significant power project that can ensure supply availability in the future,” said Arranza
Indeed, coming from the coconut industry where crushing of copra requires a great degree of power, the completion of this additional power plant, particularly in that coconut region, will certainly encourage investment, considering that setting up an oil refining plant is hampered by lack of adequate power which is indispensable for its efficient operation, Arranza emphasized.
He added that the project will even pioneer the Philippines’ first plant that will utilize high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) technology called ultra supercritical, which is already being used in other countries like Japan.
Having adequate capacity with sufficient reserves is very important in ensuring continuity of operations and in addressing high power prices that affect consumers.
“We may have enough supply right now but we cannot say the same for the future. We cannot just cross the bridge when we get there because it is not a problem that can be solved in an instant,” Arranza said.
He added, “If we experience power shortage in the future, who will be held accountable? Is it the power industry who did not act on what they are supposed to do? Or, is it those who are so persistent in blocking developments? Does this showcase government’s claim on the ease of doing business in the country?”
FPI reiterates that it is one with the administration and is fully supportive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, which can only be propped up if industries work together. In this case, the energy sector plays a crucial role in ensuring affordable, adequate, and reliable supply.
The above agitation brings us to a more mundane scenario. It is about a pragmatic situation that happened during the monthly homeowners association meeting of a premiere village northeast of Quezon City last September.
The problem arose from the usual economics of the cost of energy for the Christmas lights of its one-hectare plaza, including the four gates. The holiday decors will certainly bring cheer to its more than 1,300 homeowners.
The president of the association and six of the nine-man board were for the full lighting of the facilities. The majority decision drowned out the opposing views of some members.
The president reasoned that the lighting is always resorted to in the spirit of the Yuletide season. And besides there was this enlightening news that Meralco would reduce the cost of electricity this October. And many customers are upbeat that November and December will have the same good news.
All’s well that ends well!