Hyper-politicised energy sector dooms Filipinos to chronic energy shortage

Interesting that Boo Chanco makes no mention of the elephant in the room; the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). This, considering how, in his PhilSTAR piece today “Power failure” he writes about what he calls “the big elephant in the room” which comes in the form of the question, “how much energy capacity do we need for the next 20 to 30 years and how will we be able to make that capacity available?”

When writing about issues plaguing the country, the use of colloquialism is inevitable because the cause or the solution is known but nobody mentions it. You eventually tire of tracing the root of the problem because it inevitably leads back to the same root; Marcos, Aquino, the US and 1986. Former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco has spoken himself hoarse about his advocacy to reopen the BNPP. Since its completion, it still has an allotted budget for maintenance in case you were not aware. This is in addition to what was paid for its cost, which was financed by a loan from the US Export-Import Bank.

The “energy sector reforms” put in place by the previous administrations were supposed to guarantee energy security. Why is it then that every summer, power costs go up due to peak demand and there is still not enough supply? The simple answer is if you analyze the ownership of power generation and distribution companies, you will notice that they are interlocking. In short, it is an informal cartel. Former President Ferdinand “Apo Lakay” Marcos’s Energy Minister, Geronimo Velasco, was an engineer who took his job seriously. It was during his watch that the geothermal power plants were built. He also established the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and Petron as a counterfoil to Chevron and Shell.

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As early as 1973, Marcos was already floating the idea of shifting to nuclear energy as narrated by Herminio Disini in his book, The Politics of Business. Apo Lakay was looking at nine nuclear power plants to be built in order to cut down the country’s reliance on oil and coal-fired plants. We all know the story of what happened to the Ministry of Energy and its infrastructure post-Marcos. Cory Aquino abolished the ministry. Towards the end of her term there were massive power outages. Ramos solved the problem with the passage of the Build, Operate & Transfer Law but we were left reeling from the Power Purchase Adjustment or PPA.

One of the reasons why former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was ousted in 2001 was because of his refusal to push for the Electric Power Industry Reform Act which deregulated the power sector. He also didn’t agree to adjustments in the charge of water concessionaires because theirs was a sweetheart deal where every expense is passed on to consumers. But in this case now, I don’t think that it’s all about demand and supply. Politics figures in the equation again because Dennis Uy just bought Shell’s 45% stake in Malampaya, which is the indigenous source of natural gas for plants that run on this fuel. It is no secret that Manny Pangilinan (MVP) and the Lopez’s have long been angling to buy the Shell stake even if the LNG deposit is about to run dry. What is of value now is the pipeline from Malampaya to Batangas. The other known reserves are in Recto Bank. This is the same Recto Bank that is the focus of the South China Sea dispute. The players in the exploration for oil and gas in the area are MVP, Ricky Razon, Bobby Ongpin and Dennis Uy. The latter now has the upper hand with the Malampaya infrastructure. The spin is likely to be that President Rodrigo Duterte is compromising energy security because of his kowtowing to China.

The solution is nuclear. What we need are leaders who will literally put the country’s interests first. As it is, we are already paying a feed-in tariff for the renewable energy ventures of the power generation companies. This is the more expensive solar and wind power. During the Aquino administration, power generation companies had their way. In fact, Aquino approved the construction of additional coal-fired plants even if it signed the Paris Accord on climate change. One way of raising funds for the construction of nuclear plants is to demand climate reparations from rich countries whose carbon footprints are larger than ours. The country has been battered by one supertyphoon after another. This is not on us but just as we are the first line of defense between the US and China, so are we when it comes to supertyphoons which form in the Pacific and proceed to the Asian mainland.

If we’re going to be pragmatic about it, Marcos had his cronies but he reined them in. The Yellows promised to do away with cronyism but never did. They don’t rein in their cronies but allow them to have the average Filipino bend over and take it up where the sun don’t shine. Which do you prefer? As Raul Manglapus said, if you’re being raped, you might as well enjoy it. Between Duterte and the Yellowidiots, who makes us bend over and give us a good old colonic?

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3 Comments on “Hyper-politicised energy sector dooms Filipinos to chronic energy shortage”

  1. In terms of trying to slow down storms/typhoons….
    The country should be trying to capture the carbon offsets large companies like Microsoft/Google etc are paying to companies/organizations who are saving/creating forests. Trees are pretty amazing in terms of capturing carbon.

    According to the “law” (I get that the law is terrible) a person can only own 5 hectares, so there are probably millions of hectares the government could use to get these carbon offsets from multi billion dollar companies. Again, as we all know, law in the The Philippines means very little.

    On a sorta related note, The Philippines could also start allowing citizens to give blood plasma. The citizens and the government would make a lot of money, as currently I think only 3 or 4 countries in the world allow their citizens to give.

    In my mind, the question should always come back to, “Will this help the average Filipino?”
    It is sad that question is rarely, if ever, brought up by these politicians.

  2. @Ramon Ortoll

    According to Jose ‘Pete’ T. Arce’s article, ‘How the Philippines’ bid to be a pioneer tiger economy was crushed’:

    “The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), the first in Southeast Asia, and the Chico River Dam project could have provided a stable and cheap source of energy to power industrial parks and export processing zones in Bataan, Baguio and Cavite. Located in the town of Morong, BNPP was expected to generate over 600 megawatts while the proposed four dams along the Chico River in the Cordilleras was expected to produce over 1,000 MW of electricity. Had these been completed, these could have been a game changer in the country’s bid to industrialize. Several industrial projects in light and heavy industries like steel, petrochemicals, copper smelting, phosphate fertilizer, pulp and paper lined up rely on access to abundant and affordable energy. But the succeeding Corazon Aquino administration mothballed BNPP and the Chico River dam project was canceled.”

    https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/06/02/news/national/how-the-philippines-bid-to-be-a-pioneer-tiger-economy-was-crushed/1801577

    To power the BNPP, what it needs is a fuel about the size of a pinky fingernail which is enough to supply all the electricity requirements of an average single household… in a year!

    Can you offer us a clue why President Duterte decided not to open BNPP under his watch?

  3. The sources of power will always be politicized…they are the cause of wars and conflicts…

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