Archive for the ‘power’ Category

Scientists advise against BNPP

February 21, 2009

QUEZON CITY — Warning of a P20 billion nuclear tax and more loans, progressive scientists group AGHAM or the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan called on Congress to develop other energy sources instead of the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP).

“The projected shortage in 2012 can be addressed by building geothermal, hydro power, natural gas, wind, and solar power plants even without the operation of the nuclear plant in Bataan if only government builds the necessary indicative capacity additions and develop and upgrade exisiting power plants,” Dr. Giovanni Tapang, national chairperson of AGHAM, told the House Committee on Appropriations today.

Quoting figures from the various updates of the Philippine Energy Plan from the DOE on their website, the physicist pointed out that instead of looking at nuclear power to supply the projected energy needs, government only has to realize that most of the energy resources they auctioned could have provided the Philippines cheap and renewable energy.

“The Philippines has many available energy resources from hydrowater, geothermal, natural gas, wind and solar sources but these have been all put to sale by the government to private independent power producers (IPPs)”, Dr. Tapang said.

He further noted that the proposed bill would pass on the cost to ordinary consumers as a de facto nuclear tax of P 0.10 per kilowatt hour of the total electric power generated in the country. According to figures from the DOE website, the total electric power sales in 2007 is 48,009 GigaWatt hours (1,000,000,000 or billion watt-hour) or 48,009 million kilowatt hours. AGHAM computed that this translates to a nuclear tax of around 4 billion pesos per year or US$100 M per year to be imposed on electric consumers.  For five years the total would be 20 billion pesos.

“That is an extra 10 centavos per kwh more on your bill. If one consumes 300 kwh per month, you would have to pay an additional of 30 pesos (no VAT yet) per month for that nuclear tax or a total of 1800 pesos for five years.”, said Dr. Tapang The remaining 500 Million USD balance from the projected one billion dollar cost is to be obtained by entering into international or domestic loan agreements.

“Despite this cap on a billion dollars for the combined surcharge and loan, delays and interest repayments can drive this higher and become a new burden for the Filipino people”, Tapang added.

“The projected peak demand for 2012 should be recomputed to include the effects of the global economic crisis and recession. There should be a second look at these growth projections. Furthermore, having a stable or even a surplus of electricity capacity does not necessarily translate to lower energy costs. In recent years when we had an energy oversupply, power rates have still gone up due to one sided contracts and the pass on provisions of EPIRA”, pointed out the AGHAM chairperson.

“Passing this bill would make the operation of the BNPP a fait accompli despite the absence of studies on the actual safety of the plant after 20 years of non-operation, on its site location, its long term economic viability with regard to the risks associated with the plant,” Tapang concluded.

AGHAM is part of the Network Opposed to BNPP Revival (NO 2 BNPP Revival) – a broad alliance of scientists, environmentalists, experts and multi-sectoral formations opposed to the revival of the BNPP as it is not the answer to climate change nor will it address the energy crisis. # Vincent Michael L. Borneo

NorDis

Nuclear Myths Used to Hurry Bataan Operation — Greenpeace

February 3, 2009

Greenpeace today warned that Congress is off to speed up the passage of the Bataan Nuclear Plant revival bill regardless of serious social and environmental costs, and are using myths and abusing scientific data to support their bid.

In a press conference in Quezon City, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Von Hernandez and geologist Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Adjunct Professor at the University of the Philippines’ National Institute for Geological Sciences disproved claims by Congressmen Mark Cojuangco and Mikee Arroyo that the mothballed 30 year old Bataan Nuclear Power Plant will yield, clean, safe and inexpensive energy. Cong. Mark Cojuangco, whose family’s business interests include energy, is the author of a House Bill filed July last year seeking to revive the BNPP. House Bill 4631 has already hurdled the House Committee on Energy headed by Cong. Mikee Arroyo, and is currently in the Committee on Appropriations, whose report, according to Arroyo, is expected by mid-February.

“Nuclear energy is not clean, not safe and not cheap. In fact, it is probably the most dangerous and expensive power source there is. To say otherwise is to endorse patent falsehoods for the benefit of the nuclear industry. Greenpeace finds the intent of the bill, as well as the seeming haste with which it is being pushed in Congress highly questionable,” said Hernandez.

“The one billion USD [1] eyed to fund this project which will come from the pockets of ordinary Filipinos will be better spent on safe and cheap renewable energy. And if there must be haste, it should be for the finalization of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Renewable Energy Act, the real solution to energy security and climate change, which in contrast, sat in the Congress for more than a decade before it was passed,” he added.

Greenpeace asserts that nuclear plants are grotesquely capital intensive and expensive at almost all stages of its development. Historically, nuclear construction projects consistently run over budget, so even the 1 Billion USD projected cost for BNPP’s rehabilitation can be exceeded. The plant will also make the country dependent on imported uranium, a resource found only in a few countries. There are further costs for spent fuel storage and security, and should an accident occur, massive costs for evacuation, relocation of communities, health costs, aside from the repair of the plant and the rehabilitation of surroundings. From previous experience of nuclear disasters, these costs amount to hundreds of billions of dollars for a period of decades.

Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo whose study on fault lines and volcanic activity in the area was cited by Cojuangco in the Bill also refuted claims by the congressman that the location of the BNPP is safe. According to Rodolfo, the BNPP is situated on Mt. Natib, a dormant volcano which constitutes the entire northern half of the Bataan peninsula. “People who are eager to reactivate the BNPP are dangerously misrepresenting scientific data. Given the burden the revival of the BNPP poses to all Filipinos, the government owes it to its citizens to vigorously, openly, and thoroughly explore all the ramifications of such a risky energy source,” said Dr. Rodolfo.(PinoyPress)

Mini hydro breaks ground

December 22, 2008

by Vency Bulayungan / PIA

KIANGAN, Ifugao – In an effort to conserve the Ifugao Rice Terraces, provide a good example of locally based energy development, and improve the lives of households engaged in terrace farming in the province, the local government units and foreign partners  conducted a groundbreaking ceremony of a mini-hydro power plant at Barangay Ambabag last Dec. 10.

Dubbed as Ambangal mini-hydro power plant, the 200-kiloWatt project located in the boundaries of barangays Ambabag, Pindongan, and Mungayang is anticipated to generate a conservation fund of P3 million a year.

This project is funded by the e8, a non profit corporation which regroups 10 major electricity companies of the G8 countries namely Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States, in promoting sustainable development through renewable energy projects and human capacity building activities for the electricity sector in developing nations of the world.

Speaking before the officials and the community people in this historic town, Department of Energy assistant secretary Leonilo Lariosa, commended the officials, the community, and stakeholders for their unequivocal support towards the realization of the Ambangal mini-hydro project.

“Power plants in other parts of the country have been developed and utilized using money that were borrowed from the banks by the stakeholders but the province is lucky because the e8 granted funds for the Ambangal mini-hydro plant,” Lariosa said.

He said that the proceeds of the commercial operation of the project will be used in the restoration of the rice terraces in the area which is considered as one of the prime tourist attractions in the country.

On the other hand, Yoshihiro Hatano, general manager of the International Affairs Department of  the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) said that since the launching of the project in 2006, TEPCO, which is the largest electric power company in Japan,  was dedicated in conducting rigorous feasibility studies and creating project consensus among the stakeholders including the local community. TEPCO is leading the Ambangal mini hydro project.

“Project manager Mitsuri Shimizu, a specialist in hydroelectric energy development and Nobuki Hayasha, the deputy project manager who is an expert in the social aspects of renewable energy development, have wholly dedicated their passion and competence to this project from the beginning,” Hatano said.

Bruno Menard, the project coordinator of e8 general secretariat, said that e8 is committed to share its experience and expertise with partners in developing countries with a view of advancing sustainable development, protecting the environment, and demonstrating viable electricity projects through international cooperation.

For their part, governor Teddy Baguilat Jr. and acting mayor Angelito Dulinayan  said that this project  has been the dream of the officialdom of this municipality  when both were the mayor and vice-mayor, respectively.

This is a dream come true not only to us officials but to the community people because this project will bring development to the municipality, help uplift the economic condition of the people here and empower local communities, through their improved abilities to be involved in participatory planning and management,  Dulinayan said.

Baguilat also said that with the positive result of the native ritual performed by the “Mumbaki” (native priest) Johny Dulnuan, before the groundbreaking ceremony, the project which was realized through the assistance of the e8 will provide a good example of locally based energy development.

Provincial planning and development coordinator  Carmelita Buyuccan, who is also the chairperson of the Technical Working Group,   disclosed that the project will also conserve the rice terraces and the community people will be able to manage their own resources through the sales of electricity.

Buyuccan further said that employment opportunities will be created for local residents as construction workers and as operators. Other benefits that will be derived from the said project are improvement of irrigation systems, repair and maintenance of eroded rice terraces; dissemination of appropriate farming technology with traditional skills; reforestation; income generating activities and inheritance of the Ifugao traditional culture.

Barangay captains Jayson Bayawon of Ambabag, Rodrigo Bilog and councilman Cresencio Kimayong of Pindongan expressed their gratitude to e8, the provincial and municipal government here and other stakeholders from the project.

A Local Economic Enterprise Unit (LEEU) shall be established by the provincial government of Ifugao to manage both the operation and maintenance of the power plant, and the proper use of the conservation fund.

(BaguioMidlandCourier)

Renewable energy law comes into force

December 17, 2008

By Euan Paulo C. Añonuevo, Reporter

Nearly two decades after it was filed, the Renewable Energy bill was signed into law by President Gloria Arroyo on Tuesday, paving the way for a more aggressive development of the country’s “green” energy resources.

The President said the new legislation is the “first and most comprehensive renewable energy law in Southeast Asia” that would enable the Philippines to capture a part of the soaring investments in renewable energy development worldwide pegged at $71 billion last year.

“With our Renewable Energy Act, we can now move aggressively to develop these resources,” she added, referring to solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, wind and ocean-energy technologies.

“The benefits of renewable-energy use are considerable,” Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said also Tuesday. “It will foster sustainable growth, energy independence and economic security for the country, and unite us with the global effort to stop climate change.”

The new law—Republic Act 9513—provides fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for renewable energy investors, including tax credits on domestic capital equipment and services, special realty tax rates on equipment and machinery, tax exemption of carbon credits, duty-free importation mechanisms, and income tax holidays, among others.

The law also provides for the establishment of a Renewable Portfolio Standard system, which would require electricity suppliers to source a certain amount of their energy supply from renewable resources such as wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass.

The standard would also be complemented by a feed-in tariff system to encourage the speedy entry of renewable energy projects.

At present, the country is heavily reliant coal power plants, which are said to be one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, for bulk of its electricity needs.

“This measure will ultimately ensure a market for renewable energy, and provide a system that will allow consumers to choose green sources of energy in the long term,” Reyes said.

Pieces in place

Industry officials said that with such incentives and perks now present, the development of the country’s renewable energy sources, which have long been hampered by huge investment costs and intermittent power generation, would finally have the support that it needs.

The passage of the bill is also seen to help accelerate the Energy department’s target for renewable energy sources especially at a time when the country’s demand for power is narrowing the gap with supply.

Under the Department of Energy’s medium-term Renewable Energy Policy Framework, the government aims to develop more than 4,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy capacity, some 1,200 megawatts of which are planned to come from geothermal sources.

“While renewable energy development has been slow in the past years, the passage of the bill is expected to attract more investors to the industry, and help cement plans of investors who had been waiting for the bill’s approval,” Reyes said.

New era

Catherine Maceda, Renewable Energy Coalition spokesman, said, “The Renewable Energy Law is expected to usher in an era of cleaner energy use in the country that will benefit generations to come.”

The coalition, a multisectoral group that had been campaigning for the passage of the bill, projected that the country could save up to $1.23 billion with the development of some 4,000 megawatts of electricity from renewable energy resources.

“This amount can be directed to fund other development needs of the country,” Maceda said.

Welcome development

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Von Hernandez welcomed the development, saying the Philippines is on track toward achieving an energy revolution that is key to addressing climate change.

“This signals that the Philippines is on track toward achieving an ‘Energy Revolution’ which can end our dependence on fossil fuels and move the country into a low carbon emissions economy which is a key solution to the problem of dangerous climate change,” he added

In August, Greenpeace released the report entitled, Energy Revolution: A sustainable Philippine Energy Outlook, the first-ever comprehensive energy strategy drawn up for the Philippine setting which shows how renewable energy can become the country’s energy backbone.

The report said renewable energy could provide more than half of the country’s energy needs by 2030. It added that the Philippines could save as much as 40 percent, or $9.6 billion, in electricity cost in 2050 by using renewable energy.

The report recommends phasing out all subsidies for fossil fuels, stopping plans to construct nuclear power plants, putting a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants, and abandoning the myth of “clean coal” and nuclear power as solutions to climate change.
– With Ira Karen Apanay

(ManilaTimes)

Scientist Group Calls Anew for Scrapping of EPIRA, VAT amid the Power Rate Hike

October 30, 2008

With the impending 36 percent hike in electricity rates, AGHAM, an organization of scientists and technologists, called anew for the scrapping of the EPIRA or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, and the VAT on electricity.

BY BULATLAT

The AGHAM (Science and Technology for the People), an organization of scientists and technologists, has called anew for the scrapping of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

Dr. Giovanni Tapang, AGHAM national chairperson said that as long as EPIRA allows the passing on of the costs and losses of distribution utilities and generation plants to the people, the rate of power would continue to increase.

The adjusted Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco) rates recently approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on its average distribution, supply and metering charges bode of a 36-percent power rate increase for consumers.

Tapang said the ERC’s ‘alphabet soup of recovery mechanisms’: Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM), Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (CERA), Deferred Accounting Adjustment (DAA) result to increases.

Not the end

“These increases are reflected on the distribution utility charges and it is not yet the end of power rate increases. Come three months hence, NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) and Meralco would apply for another adjustment for their generation rates on top of the current rate hike. As the economy sinks, we will be facing a never ending spiral of price increases allowed by the ERC under the EPIRA”, said Dr. Tapang.

The continuing privatization and deregulation of electric power by the EPIRA run counter to the interests of the Filipino people. It has only made electricity inaccessible due to ever increasing costs, Tapang pointed out.

“Like a gun pointed at our heads, there seems to be no escape from the barrage of increases coming from Napocor and Meralco. Electricity is used daily in our activities, yet the ERC, NAPOCOR, MERALCO and the Arroyo government seem unconcerned about the heavy impact these increases have in our lives”, noted Dr. Tapang.

VAT

Dr. Tapang said the Arroyo government should also be held accountable for the continuing Value Added Tax (VAT) imposed on electricity rates. He said that removing the VAT would immediately lower electricity rates by around 10 percent.

Repeal EPIRA

Tapang maintained that Congress, especially the Committee on Energy chaired by Representative Mikey Arroyo, should seriously consider repealing the pass-on provisions of the EPIRA or to scrap the law altogether.

He said they should instead pass House Bill 3010 or the proposed measure seeking to repeal Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) sponsored by Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela.

“The people will always remember that it was Gloria Arroyo who pushed the EPIRA law into force and that she is the main implementor of the liberalization of the power industry. The EPIRA has not brought any relief to the people and this

Editorial Cartoon: (Local Power) PECO/PPC’s Light

October 16, 2008

That’s a bad light.

5 govs seek recall of ECC of coal plant

October 13, 2008

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 07:16:00 10/13/2008

ILOLO CITY—Five governors of Western Visayas have asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to revoke the environment certificate of compliance (ECC) issued to a coal-fired plant project here, citing its alleged threats to the environment and health.

In a letter to the President dated Oct. 6, Antique Gov. Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez, chair of the Regional Development Council, asked for Ms Arroyo’s intervention in blocking the project.

“We, the governors of Region 6 with the mandate of our constituents, bring to you the clamor of our people to have a future free from the menace of environmental degradation,” Perez said.

The letter was accompanied by a Sept. 21 manifesto declaring opposition to the coal plant project. The signatories were Governors Perez, Carlito Marquez of Aklan, Victor Tanco Sr. of Capiz, Felipe Nava of Guimaras and Isidro Zayco of Negros Occidental.

Only Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. did not sign the manifesto. Tupas, along with Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas, has endorsed the project, citing the need of residents and investors for stable power.

On Sept. 1, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued an ECC to Panay Power Corp. and the Metrobank-subsidiary Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) for the construction of a 164-megawatt coal plant in Barangay Ingore in La Paz District.

The project is among the long-time measures being pushed to address the power supply problem of Iloilo and the rest of Panay Island.

Environment Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr. earlier said the DENR would closely monitor the construction of the coal plant to ensure compliance with 14 conditions stipulated in the ECC.

These include the putting up of a Continuous Emission Monitoring System, which records real-time emissions. The information should be made available to the public.

But the governors said the project would pose risks to the health of those living and working in the city and could cause air, land and water pollution.

“We are in conscience disturbed by the DENR’s approval of the ECC to GBPC Iloilo City. As leaders of the family of provinces in Region 6, we are morally obliged to present this sentiment in behalf of our constituents and we, therefore, strongly petition the national leadership to recall and revoke the ECC,” their manifesto said.

They said they were “not totally” against the plant because they said they saw the need for additional power supply. But situating it within the city “puts (to) risk the health and lives not only of residents of Iloilo City but also thousands of students, workers, employees who reside in Iloilo City coming from the provinces of Antique, Guimaras, Negros Occidental, Capiz and Aklan,” they said.(PDI)

Santiago wants Bataan nuke plant opened

October 13, 2008

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 10:41:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Faced with rising energy costs and the possibility of a power shortage by 2010, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed Senate Bill 2665 “mandating the immediate re-commissioning and commercial operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plan (BNPP).”

“Given the increasingly prohibitive costs of the present sources of energy and the unreliability of wind, solar and other alternative sources, there is a need to revisit and utilize the nuclear power option,” Santiago said in the bill she filed on Oct. 7.

She said the BNPP was capable of producing 620 megawatts, “enough to power the islands of the Visayas.”

==========

My Take:

For God’s sake Ms. Senator.  Don’t use the Visayan people for your own political end.   Please find time to read numerous studies about the wind and solar power reliability, and discern that what u are saying in this news item is total ignorance.  Mismong ka-isla mo na si Gov. Perez ang nagpopromote nun.  Ni wala ka ngang ingay sa isyu ng coal fired power plant sa inyong Iloilo City eh, tapos ngyon eh, mgdadakdak ka na naman tungkol sa nuclear power.

Nuclear power plant is not the safest source of power, specially if it will be placed in the Philippines and operated by such a corrupt government like ours, and with a kind of armed forces like ours around.  Hay naku, the possibilities of accident because of corruption (tinipid na materyales etc.), and the military take-overs (we have a rich coup history here) are always there, putting millions of Pinoy lives in great danger.  At ano ang kapalit?  Power?  Are you sure that the cost of electricity will go down because of your nuclear plant?  Ow cmon Ms. Senator, dont treat us like an idiot.

Editorial Cartoon: DOEs Energetic Move

October 10, 2008

Wow dollar!

Bicam approves renewable energy bill

October 7, 2008

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:03:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The bicameral conference committee adopted on Tuesday the renewable energy bill, which aims to reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil and thus help shield Filipinos from price fluctuations in the global market.

Principally authored by Senators Edgardo Angara and Juan Miguel Zubiri in the Senate, and Representatives Juan Miguel Arroyo and Luis Villafuerte in the House, the bill supports the development of renewable energy (RE) sources such as hydro, wind, sun, biomass and ethanol over crude and other petroleum products.

The bill seeks to encourage local entrepreneurs to go into the development of the country’s vast alternative energy resources through a package of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, and help decrease dependence on imported fuel.

Both panels of the Senate and House of Representatives crafted a compromise version of the bill, certified urgent by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, after more than five hours of deliberation at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.

Angara and Representative Arroyo said the final copy of the bill would be sent to both houses for ratification before the adjournment of Congress on Wednesday.

The House approved the bill in June, while the Senate passed it on third and final reading in late September.

To show government’s aggressiveness in tapping alternative energy resources, the bill, if signed into law by President Arroyo, will give renewable energy users and developers tax-free privileges on the importation of equipment and even a seven-year income tax holiday.
It would take about two years, and billions of pesos, to put up renewable energy plants and facilities, said Zubiri after the bicameral meeting.

So far, 12 companies have been “waiting in the wings” and willing to spend P50 billion, Zubiri said. He added that the country can produce an initial output of 100-200 megawatts of clean energy for the next two years.

“But in the long run, power will become cheaper because we don’t need to import [so much] oil,” he said.

Angara said the proposed measure would foster sustainable growth, energy independence and economic security for the country, saying “renewable energy use can save the country valuable foreign exchange of as much as $3.6 billion or almost P200 billion in fuel purchases.”

“Every 600-million-kilowatt-hour of RE generation saves one million barrels of oil. The Philippines could avoid having to buy more than 100 million barrels of oil by developing 2,500 megawatts of RE-based [energy] by 2014,” said Angara.

The bill calls for the massive utilization of renewable energy sources that are abundant in the country but remain untapped, so far, due to lack of funding and encouragement from the national government.

Zubiri said the measure would begin the process of phasing out harmful coal-fired power plants and bunker-fuel plants that “are polluting [the environment] and causing greenhouse gases and climate change…At the same time, it will lead to lower power prices because the sale of RE to the consumers is value-added tax-free.”

He said homeowners who would tap solar power for their electricity needs under the metering system would be paid for energy they would produce.

“They will have a discount. At the end of the month, Meralco [Manila Electric Company], for example, will check how much they produced energy-wise, how much they consumed and fed to the energy grid. Meralco will deduct that from the total cost. Consumers can even be repaid by Meralco, or they can now be given a discount, but definitely, they will be getting a discount for the electricity charges.”

He said the measure would benefit the poor directly because host-communities of renewable energy would be given 100 kWh in “direct discount” for their electricity bills, plus “very, very minimal transmission and tolling charge.”

“This is the best package of incentive to any developer,” he said, disclosing other fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, to wit — VAT-free for manufacture, importation and sale of renewable energy equipment, depreciation loss, net operating cost carry over, among others.

(PDI)

Prof says power rate hike would continue to be felt

October 7, 2008

by Liza Agoot

UP DILIMAN, Quezon City – Contrary to the objective of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to bring down the cost of electricity, the cost of power in the country continues to increase.

Prof. Rowaldo Del Mundo who gave a three-day seminar on the subject EPIRA 101 to board members and employee representatives of the electric cooperatives in the country said that power rate hike will continue to be experienced.

The seminar is part of the competency training and certification program in electric cooperative power distribution system engineering given by the National Electrification Administration in cooperation with the National Engineering Center of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

The Philippines, Del Mundo said, has the second highest power rate compared to other countries all over the world.

The increase in power cost, he said, is brought about by the privatization of the generation companies, which were earlier tagged to address the high cost of power in the country.

He explained that one-third of the country’s debt was incurred by the National Power Corporation (NPC) in constructing power plants. Instead of the power plants becoming assets after many years, 91 percent of them have become liabilities.

Del Mundo said that solving the NPC’s indebtedness will actually solve one-third of the country’s indebtedness from international financial institutions.

He further said that privatization can greatly solve the problem.
However, in selling the generation companies, the government tagged a price about 300 percent higher than the cost that one will incur when it decides to build its own generation plant.

He took as an example the 15-year-old Masinloc power plant which has an economic lifespan of 30 years. Its price is US $270 million but was sold at US $930 M.

“Where do you expect the investor to get the return on investment?” The professor said, “Naturally, from the power that will be delivered.”

He said that privatization of the NPC power plants is still about 51 percent. By 2009, privatization could have reached more than 70 percent.

The generation cost as of this time, Del Mundo said, remains to be regulated. However, it is expected that at 70 percent privatized, the generation cost will start to be deregulated, leading to uncontrolled rates.

Looking at the electric bill, he said, generation cost is about 70 to 80 percent of the cost of power paid by the consumers.

“There is no way to go but to balloon the rates,” he said.

However, the phenomenon of privatization, he added, can be battled.

“Electric cooperatives can help solve the problem by engaging in generation. Look at the viabilities of the rivers in your area,” he said.

Cooperatives, he said, are non-profit by nature compared to private utilities. “When rates are perpetuated by private utilities, the coops will have to show the actual costs and by nature cannot have pro-fits,” he said.

He encouraged cooperatives to empower themselves, improve their system and never say “we don’t have money,” whenever requests for power lines in un-electrified areas as well as in industrial areas come in.
There are ways on how coops can cope with the demand for power without necessarily having to tremendously increase power rates.

Del Mundo said, the Benguet Electric Cooperative, which he has been supervising for more than three years now as a consultant, continuously improves itself in terms of manpower skills and capabilities as well as system upgrade.

This is the reason why Beneco, while not perfect, tries its best to provide a good service to the consumers, as well as continues with its missionary goal to provide electricity to all areas covered by the franchise. (BaguioMidlandCourier)

Senate approves RE bill

October 2, 2008

By Dino Balabo and Katherine Adraneda
Thursday, October 2, 2008

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Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said yesterday the Senate passed Tuesday night the Renewable Energy bill and the President may sign it into law by November.

Speaking at the opening of the cooperative month celebration in Malolos, Bulacan, Zubiri said the Senate and the House of Representatives will soon hold a bicameral session to finalize the proposed bill before President Arroyo signs it.

“Iyan ang Christmas gift namin sa ating mga kababayan. (That’s our Christms gift to our fellow citizens),” Zubiri said.

At present, he said there are at least 20 business groups which expressed interest to invest in the renewable energy sector, including the use of solar, biomass, hydro, and power.

He also predicted that power rates would drop by 12 percent once renewable energy is used.

Environmental organizations lauded the Senate for finally approving the RE bill after “a whopping 19 years in limbo.”

Voting 18-0, senators Tuesday night approved simultaneously on second and third reading the Palace-certified RE bill, which aims to accelerate the development and use of the nation’s vast renewable energy resources through fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for investors.

The measure also assures investors in wind, solar, ocean, run-of-river hydropower, and biomass premium rates in electricity generated from clean sources through feed-in tariffs. Other incentives include duty-free importation of equipment, tax credit on domestic capital equipment and services, special realty tax rates, income tax holidays, net operating loss carry-over, accelerated depreciation and exemption from the universal charge and wheeling charges.

The bill, principally sponsored by Sen. Edgardo Angara, also seeks to institutionalize a Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring the country’s electric utilities to obtain a certain portion of their electricity from clean, homegrown renewable energy sources.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a conservation group, said the Senate’s passage of the bill is a milestone in the country’s energy sector’s reforms and overall sustainability.

It described the action of the Senate as “a grand display of solidarity against climate change.”

“In passing this landmark legislation, the Senate has just paved the way for the country’s drive toward energy independence and low-carbon growth,” said Raf Senga, manager of WWF’s Asia Pacific Energy Policy.

Based on a joint study by the WWF and the University of the Philippines, the country can save over $2.9 billion from “avoided importation” of fossil fuel by merely increasing renewable energy share in power generation mix from 0.16 percent to 41 percent.

Today, 26 percent of the country’s power comes from burning imported coal, while 23 percent comes from burning oil, the WWF said.

Only last year, the WWF pointed out, the country imported 101.4 million barrels of oil alone, costing the government $7.5 billion.

The Renewable Energy Coalition said renewable energy sources can reduce the Philippines’ oil imports by half, and the savings can be used for social and infrastructure programs.

REC spokesperson Catherine Maceda said the amount of money that can be saved from reduced oil imports could send 17 million children to school, build 250,000 classrooms, establish 135,000 health centers, feed three million families, and build 38,000 kms of farm-to-market roads.

With the RE Bill only a step closer becoming a law of the land, another environment organization, Greenpeace, however, stressed that the next challenge for the lawmakers is to implement strict energy efficiency policies and begin the process of phasing out harmful coal-fired power plants.

DoE approves geothermal project in Kalinga town

October 1, 2008

By ESTANISLAO ALBANO JR.

TABUK CITY, Kalinga — The Department of Energy (DoE) has given the go-signal to two local firms to prospect and tap geothermal energy in Pasil town, this province.

Natividad Sugguiyao, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) provincial director, informed the media that the geothermal service contract (GSC), which was signed recently by DoE Secretary Angelo Reyes, allows Aragorn Power and Energy Corp. (APEC) and Guidance Management Corp. (GMC) to jointly explore for geothermal energy in a 26,250-hectare area in the municipalities of Pasil, Tinglayan, and Lubuagan, all in Kalinga.

Sugguiyao said, however, that although the GSC covers also Tinglayan and Lubuagan, the exploration will be done only in Pasil until such time that the tribes in the ancestral domains will give their free and prior informed consent (FPIC) to the activity.

Sugguiyao said that to date, seven affected tribes in Pasil have given their FPICs as the affected tribes in the ancestral domain in Tinglayan and Lubuagan want to study further the project.

“It’s not that they do not want the project. They just want to see if the project has no adverse effects on the community and want to be assured they are making the right decision,” she said.

She also said that the GSC gives APEC and GMC the right to explore for geothermal energy in the area and, if warranted by the exploration results, to produce geothermal energy for 50 years.

Sugguiyao called the project the biggest investment made in this province in recent years.

Pasil Mayor James Edduba said that if the estimated 60-megawatt potential of the area is tapped, the geothermal operation would not only be the biggest in the country but it would make the Philippines surpass the United States in use of geothermal power.

Aside from prospecting for geothermal energy, APEC is also involved in petroleum exploration in the Cagayan basin, while GMC holds the GSC for the Amacan geothermal prospect in Compostela Valley Province in Mindanao and two coal-operating contracts.(ManilaBulletin)

DOE warns RP energy supply hits critical level

September 27, 2008

LEGAZPI CITY — The country’s energy supply is on its critical level causing frequent power outages due to its inability to sufficiently support the demand and reserve margin, Irma C. Exconde, assistant director at the Department of Energy said.

“The country’s energy reached its critical period this year particularly in Mindanao which is now experiencing frequent power outages. By 2009, Visayas will also be facing energy crisis while Luzon will be affected by power crisis in 2010,” Exconde warned.

She said that the country’s energy requirement is 4,100 MW capacity where Luzon is in need of bigger energy requirement at 3,000 MW compared to Mindanao with 600 MW, followed by Visayas with 500 MW capacity requirement.

She said the years 2008 to 2017 should be strongly taken as a planning period for a power development plan in our country.

Jesus Tamang, another top executive at the DOE admitted before newsmen here that the country’s energy reserve was thinning and they are scouting for additional energy reserve through alternative and renewable resources to meet the high energy demand.

The DOE officials flew in this city to conduct series of consultation with stakeholders with the hope of drafting and coming up with plans to improve energy supply as well as tackle pressing regional concerns during the 8th Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) 2008-2030 held at Casablanca Hotel here.

Tamang said the government is a need of P1.42 trillion from 2008 to 2014 or for the next six years to firm up and generate 4,000 MW additional power reserve to meet the country’s energy sufficiency.

But the energy sufficiency would only be attained, according to Tamang, if appropriate energy power generation mix and expanded alternative infrastructure distribution package would be established by the government in partnership with the private sector to invest on solar, wind, hydro power, including coal resources.

Bicol is host to geothermal and hydroelectric generating plants which feeds the Luzon Grid. Two of the major geothermal fields are in Tiwi, Albay which is operated by Chevron and in Bacon (Sorsogon)-Manito (Albay), otherwise known as BACMAN which is separately operated by the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC). Both geothermal plants have a combined installed capacity of 496.20 MW.

The region is also host to diesel power plants and a hydro-power plant which serve the island provinces of Masbate and Catanduanes.

Bicolano businessman and investor Elizaldy ‘Zaldy’ S. Co of Legazpi City has established a P800 million hydro power project in Catanduanes and another P900 million worth of combined investments for windmill, solar and hydro projects in Misibis, Cagraray Island in Bacacay, Albay in anticipation of the looming energy crisis in the country beyond 2010.

To address and achieve energy sufficiency, the government is pushing major programs this year according to Tamang which include increasing indigenous energy resources production of oil and gas, energy sector reforms, ensuring environmental sustainability, securing vital energy infrastructure and facilities, institutionalizing social mobilization in all energy initiatives, and exploring options for regionalization.

The Philippines is the second largest geothermal producer in the world. Currently, three geothermal service contracts were signed in July this year with investments amounting to $26 million for the first five years with expected foreign exchange savings of $1.8 billion or P76 billion from oil imports.

Tamang said that the government is also accelerating the renewable and alternative fuels program such as wind energy, solar, hydro and biofuel as well as eyeing long term energy diversification to meet sufficient energy requirements.

Three coal operating contracts (COCs) were also signed as of August 2008, 10 small-scale coal mining permits awarded mostly in Zamboanga where local high quality coals come from (BicolMail)

Albay brownouts from worse to worst

September 16, 2008

THE militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Bikol (Bayan-Bikol) are once again up in arms as it takes to task the worsening daily power outages in the province of Albay and blames the National Power Corporation, which has taken over the operations of the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco), for the crisis.

This, even as the militant group said that they were amenable to a proposed dialogue sounded off by Napocor managers to discuss the problem and other areas of concern provided that Napocor should end or at least minimize first the recurring power outages.

Tessa Lopez, Bayan-Bikol spokesperson, said “such a dialogue should also be the venue for ferreting out the truth behind the brown outs and not be used as a platform for the privatization of ALECO.”

She added they could not just believe Napocor’s explanation that the power outages were caused by the protruding branches of trees that stand along the power lines.

Napocor has taken over last July 2008 the operations of cash-strapped Aleco, presumably to solve the power distribution firm’s deteriorating service and operations.

“When we exposed the horrendous brown outs last week, we were experiencing 4 to 7 power outages a day. Now it has increased to 5-8 last Saturday which started at 5:30 am until 1: 30 pm,” Lopez said.

And she asked: “How can Albayanos live a normal life and pursue a conducive business climate when a basic service like electricity can’t even be provided properly?”

The militant group insists that as a wiser measure, Aleco should immediately be converted into a genuine cooperative that is run by Albayanos for Albayanos.

Those in the know, however, told Bicol Mail, that conversion of electric cooperatives into full-fledged one had long expired, after the electric cooperatives all over the country were given a time-frame as mandated by law for them to decide whether they should register as people’s cooperative with the Cooperative Development Authority or stay as they are — a non-coop despite their corporate names – under the organizational and operational supervision of the National Electrification Administration.(BicolMail)

2 coal plants to rise soon in Subic

September 7, 2008

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to a company that is part of a joint venture which has proposed to build two 150-megawatt coal-fired power plants at the Subic Bay Freeport.

This was learned from former Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II who furnished the Inquirer a copy of the ECC issued to the Taiwan Cogeneration International Corp., a partner of the Aboitiz Energy in the Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RPEI), the project’s proponent.

The ECC was issued on April 4 this year.

“The proponent was not known to have held public consultations before that date and yet, SBMA issued it an ECC. We have never been informed that it was issued an ECC,” he said, adding that his copy was obtained from an SBMA source.

SBMA ecology chief Amethya dela Llaka-Koval did not answer the Inquirer’s request to confirm the ECC.

DENR review

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the ECC is “still subject to the review and validation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources” since it is an environmentally critical project.

Arreza said Lacbain was “not accurate” in saying that no public hearings were held.

Hearings, he said, were held for investors and residents of the freeport.

The project’s site is in Sitio Naglatore in Barangay Cawag in Subic town, which is still within the jurisdiction of the SBMA, he said.

The DENR, he said, has ordered the holding of public hearings in Subic town and Olongapo City.

Oscar Cabayanan, Central Luzon director of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, on Friday said he does not have any information yet if the Environmental Management Bureau central office has issued an ECC to the project.

RPEI Director Miguel Aboitiz on Wednesday confirmed that the SBMA had given it an ECC.

Opposition

Olongapo City Mayor James Gordon Jr. and the city council have objected to the plan of RPEI to build and operate the coal-fired power plants.

A resolution, approved by the council on Aug. 27 and approved by Gordon on Aug. 28, cited environmental safety and public health as bases for turning down the project.

Gordon and the council urged the RPEI instead to “consider safer alternative sources of energy for Subic Bay.”

“The proponents… assure relatively low emission and the lowest environmental impact possible. Even so it does not discount the fact that harmful emissions will definitely affect lives and the livelihood of communities in the next 50 years. There must be no tolerable and acceptable levels of pollution so as not to compromise the health and welfare of the environment and the communities,” the resolution said.
Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

Blackout everyday, yet no power crisis says Paleco, Delta P

August 27, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

DESPITE the unbridled progression of total and partial blackouts in Puerto Princesa and municipalities of Palawan that’s already instigating annoyance from residents, independent power distributor Delta P said “there’s no power crisis, just unexpected malfunctions in equipment and faulty electricity lines.”

Engr. Edmund Abayon of Delta P explained to Palawan Times that unit 3 of four units they have that control the power system had suffered a problem and is now under repair.

It will take until the first week of September before it is restored to normal, he informed. Currently, only three units are working. “Even if only three of our four units are working, we are still able to supply the power requirements of Puerto Princesa and the municipalities,” Abayon said.

He added also that last August 16’s (Saturday) total blackout was because they were upgrading the transmission from Delta P to the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco) switchyard. The load was only from Agreco and Palawan Power, two other independent power producers distributing electricity to subscribers in the city and municipalities of the province.

Boy Opiala, public information officer of the Paleco, said blackouts can’t be stopped from happening because they’re part of the “system.” Faulty electricity lines have something to do too with partial blackouts. They’re often caused by falling electric posts and tree branches tripping on power lines.

“We can’t be totally blamed for all these blackouts because they’re part of the system, we can’t stop them from happening. Even if we have our own engineers taking care of problems in our equipment, they will happen because we are using machines,” he said.

The power requirement of Puerto Princesa and those of other municipalities is being supplied by Delta P, Agreco that’s leasing the Irawan-based National Power Corporation (Napocor) and Palawan Power.

Delta P and Agreco are the primary suppliers that meet the requirement, while Napocor is on standby when the supply becomes short. Opiala added that Delta P also supplies the power needs of Aborlan and Quezon.

If Delta P switches on all its units, the surge of the load becomes too much and can cause total blackout, he explained.

Opiala furthered that in Puerto Princesa where protecting the environment is a commitment, it is difficult to just trim trees without going through the local environment and natural resources office.

“We have been sued by the city government on this,” he said. He explained more that if they need to cut down a tree, sometimes they only ask permission from homeowners.(PalawanTimes)

Meralco execs charged with P889M syndicated estafa

August 23, 2008

CHARGES of syndicated estafa were filed yesterday by the Department of Justice against corporate officers of the Manila Electric Co (Meralco) for converting as income the interest earned by meter and bill deposits of subscribers in the amount of P889 million.

The charges were filed before the Pasig regional trial court after Meralco officials failed to file a counter-affidavit on the allegations of complainant National Association of Electricity Consumers (Nasecore).

Syndicated estafa is a non-bailable offense.

In a 31-page resolution, the DOJ panel of prosecutors found probable cause to indict Meralco chairman Manuel Lopez, and the 2006 board of directors composed of Arthur Defensor Jr., Gregory Domingo, Octavio Victor Espiritu, Christian Monsod, Federico Puno, Washington Sycip, Emilio Vicens, Francisco Viray, and Cesar Virata.

Also impleaded were Daniel Tagaza, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Meralco; Rafael Andrada, first vice president and treasurer; Helen de Guzman, vice president and corporate auditor and compliance officer; Antonio Valera, vice president and assistant comptroller; and Manolo Fernando, senior assistant vice president and assistant treasurer.

The DOJ said there is strong evidence sufficient to support a finding of probable cause for the commission of estafa, and that respondents committed “felonious acts.”

Meralco had acknowledged 10 percent interest on deposits made by its subscribers pursuant to Energy Regulatory Board (ERB) Resolution No. 95-21.

In anticipation of a favorable approval of its request for reduction of the 10 percent rate to 6 percent per year, Meralco had provisionally divided the 10 percent into 6 percent as “customer deposits” account and 4 percent as operating reserves account.

Its request was denied by the Energy Regulation Commission (ERC) in 2004. Meralco then reclassified the 4 percent portion by transferring the same to its “customers deposits” account which clearly indicated that the amounts are being maintained and held for purposes of complying with its obligations as mandated under ERB Resolution 95-21.

The ERC resolution as well as Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), mandates Meralco to return the principal and fruits of the money submitted by its subscribers for meter and bill deposits.

Instead of maintaining the money under its “customers deposits” accounts, Meralco again reclassified on Dec. 31, 2006 the 4 percent portion of the interest which accrued from September 1995 to May 2003 by transferring the said amount to its interest and other income.

Nasecore president Petronilo Ilagan said that the conversion was illegal because the money was in the nature of a fund that should have been held in trust by Meralco for its consumers because it must be paid back to them. – Evangeline de Vera(Malaya)

Catanduanes sees low power costs

August 14, 2008

Fernan Gianan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

VIRAC, Catanduanes – National and local officials are optimistic that a 2.3-megawatt hydroelectric plant in San Miguel town in Catanduanes will lower electricity costs and push economic progress in the province.

Residential consumers currently pay P9.6308 per kilowatt-hour, or nearly P2,000 a month for a 200-kWh consumption. The amount is among the highest power rates in the country.

Sunwest Water & Electricity Co. (Suweco) will build the power plant in Barangay Solong and two others in Caramoran in the northern part of the island.

During the project’s ground-breaking ceremony in the capital town of Virac on July 29, which was – not surprisingly – interrupted by a power outage, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes declared full support to efforts toward renewable energy as an alternative to finite, fuel-based sources.

Self-contained island

“The future lies in the full exploration and development of renewable sources of energy and Catanduanes is poised to be a leader in the field,” Reyes said. He cited the province’s vast natural resources and geographical location as ideal in developing hydroelectric, solar, geothermal, biomass, wind and ocean energies.

He urged local leaders to “maximize your advantages and make optimal use of what you have.” Catanduanes can be a self-contained island in terms of power, he said.

Elizaldy Co, chief executive officer of Suweco, thanked the secretary for the DOE’s speedy approval of the operating contracts for the 2.3-MW Solong plant in San Miguel, the 1.5-MW Hitoma 1 and 1.6-MW Hitoma 2 hydropower projects in Caramoran.

The plants are expected to be on stream by the end of 2010 at a cost of P120 million per MW or P660 million. Suweco has reportedly started earthworks for the 3-MW Kapipian hydroelectric power plant in Paraiso, San Miguel.

The total capacity of the four plants, or 8.5 MW, will be more than enough for the power needs of the island, which has reeled from intermittent power outages in recent weeks as old diesel generating sets of the Napocor failed in succession.

At present, the existing 30-year-old Balongbong minihydroelectric plant in Bato town supplies only 20 percent of the 6.1-MW power requirement of the province. The balance is accounted for by two land-based diesel generator sets, a power barge, and the two mobile diesel generator sets rented by the Napocor.

Power cooperative

Co promised cheaper electricity for the 36,000 member-consumers of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative Inc. (Ficelco). Suweco will charge 4 percent lower than the subsidized or approved generation rate of the National Power Corp. for the first three years.

Two other independent power producers – PowerOne Corp. and Catanduanes Power Generation Inc. – have signed separate energy sales agreements (ESAs) with the cooperative, but both have yet to deliver power from diesel power plants leased from the Napocor and Ficelco.

Suweco is not only concentrating on hydropower but also on wind energy development.

Gov. Joseph C. Cua agreed that the projects, once completed, would have a huge impact on the local economy. This will especially be important if the province pursues its dream to build a shipyard in Panganiban town, he said. Panganiban was home to a galleon-building industry during the Spanish era.

Cua commended Suweco for listening to the provincial government when it opposed a controversial energy sales agreement (ESA) it signed with Ficelco and for agreeing to comply with the procedural requirements of the project, such as consulting local officials and affected communities.

The island’s lone congressman, Joseph A. Santiago, said the development would finally set Catanduanes free from high power rates.

Msgr. Sañado to join fray at Casureco II board polls

August 12, 2008

By Jason B. Neola

NAGA CITY — It’s now official.

Responding to power-consumers’ mounting clamor, Naga Metropolitan Cathedral parish priest Rev. Msgr. Zosimo M. Sañado will run as director in the August 30, 2008 elections of the Camarines Sur II Electric Cooperative (Casureco II) representing the Naga North District.

This, after he obtained the “blessings” of Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, who like many other well-known power consumers in the city such as Naga City Mayor Jesse M. Robredo and officers of various socio-civic organizations and the academe in the city have unequivocally urged him to further serve the people and parishioners beyond the vows of priesthood.

Casureco II is wanting for a much-needed reform, both moral and technical, in the light of controversies, ‘sins of omissions’ and excesses blamed on its board members and some department managers.

If elected, Sañado, for the fourth time, will again find himself performing public service which he first did 25 years ago when he was the parish priest of Holy Cross parish in Nabua, Camarines Sur.

While serving as parish priest in 1993, Sañado became one of the prime movers of the Nabua water district when he initiated to enhance and expand its services.

Nabua water district was categorized then as a depressed local water district when in 1997 the parish priest was elected chairman of the board of directors of the Nabua water district.

He recalled that he personally purchased all the necessary materials in the installation of main distribution lines and other pipelines in order for the water district to be able to access potable water from nearby Iriga water district.

He said the water project was financed by the money amounting to P400,000 which he personally borrowed from banker-businessman Fidel L. Cu, who is a family friend.

Now Nabua water district is categorized as medium water district. Its operations cover more than 85 to 95 percent of the entire municipality. Until now, he remains to be the chairman of the water district.

Sanado also played a vital role in pressuring the management of Casureco III based in Iriga City, which was then run by the Alfelors, to open to the public all transactions, financial records and other documents in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

He strongly called for change in cash-strapped Casureco III which at that time was suffering from various problems in terms of manpower and financial management, political intervention, and inefficient delivery of services.

With Licentiate in Sacred Theology as magna cum luade and Masteral Degree in Spiritual Theology, also as magna cum laude, which he both took at the Pontifica Studicrum Universitas a San Thoma Aquinate in Urbe in Rome, Sañado in 2004 founded the Nabua Parochial School where he is the school’s vice-chairman of the board of directors.

==========================

My Take:

This event is indeed interesting.

Interesting that the Archbishop himself allows the parish priest of its busiest parish to provide half of its attention to a private transaction.

Interesting that the priest involved took a public office 25 years ago, while serving as the parish priest in Nabua.

Interesting that, many people see him fit for the “public” job.

Beyond that, it would be interesting to know also if what happened to the parish when he held the said water district job.  Did he successfully formed Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) there?   Did he propagated the Social Doctrine of the Church there?  How about in his current capacity as the Cathedral’s head honcho?

A priest, and  a parish priest at that, requires all needed time and attention to mould its community of concern into a real Catholic community, and a discerning body of community.  And i think, snatching away half of his attention to this parochial job is the biggest mistake the Archdiocesan heirarchy has committed.

Pwede naman na naging consultant na lang siya.

But he still has some option to take, and its the right option.  That is, for him to resign as parish priest, or take a leave, just like what Among Ed did, and stop using his “Monsignor” label while serving in the CASURECO office.

After all, hindi naman trabaho ng pari ang mamuno sa CASURECO II.  Trabaho yan ng consumer.  And as a consumer, he has every right to participate and lead the coop.

Poor Pays 90% of VAT on Power, Oil – Expert

August 5, 2008

Using government data, Ramon Ramirez, electrical engineer and spokesperson of People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates, revealed that the poor pays for 90 percent of the VAT on oil and power.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 26, August 3-9, 2008

The poor and the middle class who probably expected that some measure of relief would be announced by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 28 may have been disappointed. A substantial portion of President Arroyo’s SONA was devoted to defending the administration’s insistence in retaining the value-added tax (VAT) on oil and power.

Arroyo said, “Kapag ibinasura ang VAT sa langis at kuryente, ang mas makikinabang ay ang mga may kaya na kumukonsumo ng 84 porsyento ng langis at 90 porsyento ng kuryente habang mas masasaktan ang mahihirap na mawawalan ng P80 billion para sa mga programang pinopondohan ngayon ng VAT. Take away VAT and we strip our people of the means to ride out the world food and energy crisis.” (If the VAT on oil and power is scrapped, the well-to-do who consume 84 percent of oil and 90 percent of power will benefit while the poor who stand to lose P80 billion [$1,808,931,599 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.225] for programs funded by VAT will suffer.)

However, government data belie her claim that the rich pay 84 to 90 percent of the VAT.

Power

Electrical engineer Ramon Ramirez, spokesperson of People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates (Power) and convenor of Agham (Science and Technology for the People) said, “It is not the well-to-do but the majority of the people, which includes the poor, who pay 90 percent of the VAT on power, directly and indirectly.”

Data from the Department of Energy (link – http://www.doe.gov.ph/EP/Powerstat.htm ) show that in 2007, electricity sales by sectors were as follows:

pie graph

Ramirez said that while the industrial and commercial sectors consumed 62.4 percent of the electricity, the companies promptly passed on the VAT on power to the buyers of their products and services — the consumers, which include the poor and the vast majority of the people.
He maintained, “Thus, the consumers themselves, not the owners of the companies, ultimately paid the VAT on power.”

Ramirez said that the 3.4 percent consumed by street lighting, public buildings and the like and the VAT paid for them came from the people’s taxes. “Therefore, the VAT on the total of the three items, 66 percent, was paid indirectly by the people, not the rich,” he said.

Analyzing the data from Meralco’s latest breakdown of residential consumers, Ramirez said that the well-to-do who are presumably consuming more than 500 kilowatt-hour per month consumed only 28 percent of the total power delivered to homes, or 28 percent of the 34.11 percent in residential sales. This amounts to a mere 9.55 percent of the total power consumed.

Ramirez said that this means that relative to the nationwide power consumption in the DOE data, only about 10 percent of the VAT on power were paid for by the well-to-do and the rich.

Oil

Based on various government data, millions of poor people who directly consume petroleum products pay millions of VAT daily.

Daily, hundreds of thousands of jeepney drivers pay P67.95 million ($1,536,527 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.225) in VAT and tricycle drivers, P14.12 million ($319,292), for the fuel they consume. Thousands of fishermen using motorized bancas pay a total of P8.85 million ($200,113) in VAT per fishing trip.

More than nine million kerosene users pay P218.32 million ($4,936,673) for VAT per month. Kerosene is used primarily by the poor for cooking and lighting.

Estimated VAT Paid Daily/Monthly by Consumers of Petroleum Products

Ave. cost

Jan-July 2008

VAT

No. of direct consumers

Average

consumption

Total VAT Paid

Daily/Monthly

Diesel – P44.23/liter

P5.31

426, 572 jeepney drivers

30 liters/day

P67, 952, 920

Gas – P50.55/liter

P6.07

581,578 tricycle drivers

4 liters/day

P14, 120, 714

P6.07

177,000 fishermen with bancas

7.5 L /fishing trip

P8,057, 925

11-kg cylinder LPG – P587.57

P70.51

8.6 million households

1 tank/month

P606, 386,000

Kerosene –

P46.15/liter *

P5.53

9.4 million

households

4.2 L/month

P218, 324,400.00

* As of May 2008 only

Source of basic data: Oil Price Watch Department of Energy <http://www.doe.gov.ph/OPM/Oilmonitor.htm > , Land Transportation Office 2007 report, National Statistics Office 2004 Household Energy Consumption Survey, Piston, Pamalakaya

Based on the above data covering the period January to July 2008, the poor directly paid around P20.55 billion ($464,669,304) in VAT.

Estimated VAT Paid Directly by Poor Consumers, January to July 2008

Estimated Total VAT Paid

Jeepney drivers

P14,270,113,116

Tricycle drivers

P 2,965,349,906

Fishermen

P1,692,164,250

Kerosene users

P 1,528,270,800

TOTAL

P20,555,898,122

Added to this, taxpayers, including minimum wage earners, also pay for the oil consumption of government offices and government-owned and-controlled corporations (GOCCs).

Data from the Commission on Audit’s (COA) 2006 Annual Financial Report of the National Government show that the government spent P2.82 billion ($63,764,838) for gasoline, oil and other lubricants expenses.

The COA report shows that the top spenders of gasoline, oil and lubricants were the Department of National Defense and the Department of Interior and Local Government with P83 million ($3,670,675,000) and P63 million ($2,786,175,000), respectively.

The average retail price of gasoline then was P39.41 ($0.89) per liter and diesel, P34.46 ($0.779) per liter. Assuming that the consumption is constant, the 28 percent increase in the prices of petroleum products from 2006 to 2008 would mean that the government would spend P3.61 billion ($81,628,038) for the same items this year. From this amount, the 12 percent VAT shouldered by the taxpayers would be P379 million ($8,569,813).

Based on the Projected Oil Demand by Sector taken from the Philippine Energy Plan of 2006, below is the projected oil consumption in 2007:

A.1.2a Projected Oil Demand By Sector.xls


barrels in millions

Percentage

Power Generation

12.389

10.7

Residential

11.292

9.7

Transport

66.487

57.2

Industrial

17.212

14.8

Commercial

5.986

5.2

Agriculture

2.861

2.5

Total

116.227

100.0

Based on the above data, Ramirez noted that excluding the transport sector, the public pays 42.8 percent of the VAT on oil. He explained that the VAT on power generation is passed on to consumers as part of the generation charge. Ramirez said that factory owners and businessmen who comprise the industrial and commercial sectors also pass on the VAT to consumers. Oil consumption by residential and agriculture sectors is also paid for by the public.

Considering that the rich pays for only 10 percent of the total consumption of electricity, it may be concluded that they would shoulder only 10 percent of the oil consumption for power generation and of residences. And while the rich shares in paying for the oil consumption of industrial and commercial establishments as consumers, it is highly improbable that they, who constitute only around 5 to 10 percent of the population, would consume 84 percent of the products of commercial establishments even as they corner 35.9 percent of the total income.

Ramirez said, “This data alone already refutes Arroyo’s claim of 84 percent share by the rich.”

The breakdown of the projected oil consumption of the transport sector, which constitutes 57.2 percent of the total is as follows:

Cars

751,092

13.6%

Utility vehicles (UV)

1,602,619

29.0%

Sports utility vehicles (SUV)

192,991

3.5%

Truck

281,261

5.1%

Buses

30,159

0.5%

Motorcycles and tricycles (MC/TC)

2,647,574

47.9%

Trailer

24,356

0.4%

TOTAL:

5,530,052

100%

Source: Land Transportation Office (LTO) statistics

Ramirez said that of the above, the VAT on oil used by trucks, buses, trailers, tricycles is eventually and indirectly paid for by the public, since these are passed on to them as matter of business operating practice.

In 2001, the LTO statistics show that the government owns 4,089 cars and 1,255 sports utility vehicles (SUVs). This means that private car owners comprise less than 16 percent of the transport sector.

Thus, the estimated share of the rich in the VAT on oil is only 9.15 percent. In other words, 90.85 percent of the public directly and indirectly pays for the VAT on oil.

Shortchanged

In a separate statement, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) revealed that the national government may have collected as much as P1.8 billion ($40,700,966) in VAT from Meralco’s lifeline customers alone. The amount, according to Bayan, is P1 billion pesos ($22,611,644) more than the actual subsidy given.

Lifeline users are those consuming 100 kilowatt hour or less per month. The government gave a one-time P500 ($11.30) power subsidy for lifeline customers last month. For 1.7 million Meralco lifeline customers, the government spent P852 million ($19,265,121) for the one-time subsidies, Bayan said.

In her SONA, however, Arroyo said her government allocated P2 billion ($45,223,289) as power subsidy for four million poor Filipinos.

Bayan estimated that for 32 months, 50kWh-consumers paid a total of P470 ($10.627) each in VAT; 70kWh paid a total of P970 ($21.93); and those who consume 100kWh paid a total of P1,830 ($41.379) each in VAT.

Ramirez said, “Only a fraction of the collected VAT is doled out to the poor as subsidies under the signboard “Katas ng VAT para sa mahirap.” (VAT Revenues for the Poor)

In a statement, independent think tank IBON Foundation said that so far, only P9.3 billion ($210,288,298) or just half of the estimated P18.6 billion ($420,576,596) in windfall RVAT revenues is going to subsidies. This leaves another P9.3 billion ($210,288,298) unaccounted for inasmuch as another P2 billion ($45,289,223) in “subsidies” that had been hyped are merely loans that still have to be repaid.

It added that the administration’s “Katas ng VAT” is “a pretense to cover up how the largest part of reformed value-added tax (RVAT) revenues do not go to social programs but rather to paying off debt, militarism and political patronage to prop up Arroyo’s unprecedented unpopular rule.”

The independent think tank also criticized the Arroyo government for making it appear that the share going to social programs is larger than reality. IBON cited the Department of Finance report in 2006 stating that 30 percent or P23.5 billion ($531,373,657) of additional RVAT revenues went to social and infrastructure expenditures. However, the actual amount that went to social services was just P8.4 billion ($189,937,817) or only 11 percent of RVAT revenues.

IBON said further, “In contrast, the administration still insists, in the face of the people’s worsening problems, on allotting some 24 percent of the national budget to interest payments on debt.”

The government is paying P634 billion ($14,335,782,928) in total debt service in 2008 covering interest and principal payments.

Correct math

IBON said that the so-called pro-poor subsidies also do not have any lasting effect for the people who suffer record joblessness, rising prices and worsening poverty.

Ramirez asserted, “Correct math on hard data tells us that the people are better helped by removing the VAT on oil and power, and with the bonus that they have their dignity intact.” Bulatlat

Catanduanes hydro power project gets ERC nod

August 5, 2008

VIRAC, Catanduanes—Despite Gov. Joseph Cua’s opposition, the proposed P729 million hydropower plant project of the Sunwest Water and Power Co. Inc. (SUWECO) would finally see implementation after the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) had given its go signal to the controversial project.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes flew to this island province Tuesday afternoon to supervise the groundbreaking ceremony of Solong hydropower plant project in San Miguel town. The ceremony was attended also by Governor Cua; Virac Bishop Manolo de los Santos, who personally endorsed the project before the ERC and the Department of Energy; and several town mayors.

Reyes said the project will resolve the power outages which have affected the island province for decades, crippling economic activities here.

He said that the province would be a leader in providing sustainable energy through the hydropower plant project of businessman Zaldy Co, as the project would generate 8.5 megawatts of electricity.

“It will create job as well as promote tourism development,” he added.

Co told Bicol Mail that he started the project to prepare for the increasing demand for electricity that could result to gradual power shortages starting 2011.

With the approval of the hydropower plant project, the government would save P200 million a year aside from providing clean energy, employment, and income to the province.

Gov. Joseph Cua, however, reiterated his opposition to the hydropower plant project in his welcome message during the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I am not against the hydropower plant project. In fact I’m gladly welcoming projects like this one. We are after alternative and renewable sources of energy that will not compromise our environment,” he said. But he underscored that the rate should be lowered.

Cua said in his opposition paper filed before the ERC that the power purchase rate offered by SUWECO was grossly overpriced and violated existing laws.

But former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad assailed Cua who according to him was hell-bent in opposing the renewable-energy project because it would affect his (Cua) petroleum business.

Rep. Joseph Santiago in a statement read by his chief of staff said that while there had been so many intrigues and controversies surrounding the hydropower plant project, residents could now breathe a sigh of relief.

He said that the province will finally be free from escalating cost of electricity.

“The province is rich in natural resources as well as in skilled manpower. What basically hampers our development is the absence of cheap and reliable power supply. With this project, I am confident that another missing link in our province’s development has finally been resolved,” he added.

Mayor Lourdes Bernal of San Miguel town expressed appreciation for Zaldy Co for initiating a renewable energy project which, she said, would boost and uplift the living conditions in the far-flung areas here.

She said electrification through renewable energy would help the poor in the province amid the skyrocketing prices of petroleum products.

“This project preserves environmental balance aside from providing cheaper and sustainable energy source. Our province is oozing with water resource, hence the opportunity to tap this resource must be our utmost concern to avert the rising cost of crude oil,” she said.

Following rebel threats, the Philippine Army in Bicol assured to provide security to the management of SUWECO. Col. Ariel Bernardo, commanding officer of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade, told Bicol Mail that he already had deployed additional soldiers and militiamen.(BicolMail)

$9M solar wind, mini-hydro power plant in Albay

August 5, 2008

BACACAY, Albay – Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes led the groundbreaking ceremonies for the $9 million Misibis Solar, Wind and Mini-hydro Power Project in Cagraray Island in this town last July 29.

The Secretary of the Department of Energy (DoE) flew here by a chopper from San Miguel, Catanduanes where he had earlier officiated the groundbreaking rites for a Mini-hydroelectric project.

The Misibis Solar, Wind and Mini-hydro Power Project is owned by Sunwest Water and Electric Co., Inc., a firm under a Sunwest Group of Companies headed by Elizaldy S. Co, the chairman of the board. It is adjacent to the Misibis Residential Resort, Sunwest’s resort venture.

In a press conference after a groundbreaking rites, Co told the local media that the power project had already started. “The wind and solar plants could be completed by December 2008 but the mini-hydro project is expected to be finished in the of next year, He said.

Co revealed that the Misibis power project is a 100% Filipino-owned company. When completed, the combined power plant can generate 2.7 megawatts, enough to supply the energy requirement of Cagraray including Misibis.

Asked for his message, Secretary Reyes said: “We have to congratulate Mr. Elizaldy Co for this very firm and resonant support and confidence in our economy.”

“It is very laudable to have Filipino investors investing in projects of this magnitude. Mr. Co has not only invested in resorts and real state but also in power generation especially in renewable energy,” he said.

Reyes said he has been very supportive of Co’s projects particularly in power generation. “We approved all his requests in record time and facilitated all the documents required to set up the plant, “ he added.

Co announced that Discovery Bay Resources, which manages the No. 1 resort in Boracay, and a chain of hotels, will be managing Misibis Residential Resorts and Hotel Venezia in Legazpi City.(BicolMail)

Napocor seeking another round of power-rate hikes

August 2, 2008

By Euan Paulo C. Añonuevo, Reporter

CONSUMERS should brace for new round of increases in electricity bills after state-owned National Power Corp. (Napocor) filed another petition before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) seeking to raise its generation and foreign exchange charges for its Luzon customers.

Among Napocor’s biggest clients is Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), which distributes electricity to 70 percent of the Luzon grid.

Napocor recently filed for its 10th Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM) and 9th Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (ICERA) applications. The GRAM and ICERA are components of the Deferred Accounting Adjustments (DAA) in Napocor’s power rates, as required by the ERC.

Collectively, these filings, if approved, will result in an increase of P0.1821 per kilowatt-hour in Luzon and P0.4533 per kilowatt-hour in the Visayas. In Mindanao, any adjustment will result in a decrease of P0.3625 per kilowatt-hour.

The said petitions are aimed at allowing Napocor to recover the incremental fuel, foreign exchange rate fluctuation and other costs arising from its reliance on independent power producers to augment supply. The state-owned company incurred these costs from January 2007 to April 2008.

These applications come on the heels of a recent ERC order approving the 9th GRAM and 8th ICERA of a P0.7116 per kilowatt-hour and P0.0246 per kilowatt-hour reduction in Luzon and Mindanao, respectively, and an increase of P0.1591 per kilowatt-hour in the Visayas.

Should the new applications be approved by the regulator, the 10th GRAM and 9th ICERA will replace the existing 9th GRAM and 8th ICERA in Napocor’s DAA billing components.

Earlier, Napocor said that power rates will remain stable until 2009 despite a separate application—filed June 3, 2008—to adjust its basic generation rate by P0.3700 per kilowatt-hour.

The state-owned company had said the petition to adjust its basic generation rates is in line with the privatization of a number of its cheap-running power plants such as its hydro and coal facilities.

Cyril Del Callar, Napocor president, said that any adjustment in the company’s basic rate will likely be tempered by it’s pending GRAM and ICERA petitions, adding its rate will hover at the current P3.3567 per kilowatt-hour in Luzon, P2.9934 per kilowatt-hour in the Visayas, and P2.6695 per kilowatt-hour in Mindanao, for the remainder of this year.(ManilaTimes)

From under this hat: Typhoon Helen, and the freedom to choose

July 26, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

Peter Parker noticed that under the fast winds and heavy rain that Typhoon Helen carried with her through our City, Benguet Electric Cooperative’s (Beneco) electric service did not falter. He wondered aloud if it was because Baguio Electric Cooperative (Baelco) threatens to take over.

We may think it amusing but nowadays it seems to be a pattern among competing business entities. It is a serious note that service in the name of the public only becomes truly a service when there is a competing or an upcoming new entity that says they can do better.

Can business not be truthful anymore? Must they portray themselves only as the best marketing strategists, top public relations, best sellers, wheeler-dealers, chiselers, etc? Today they even charge the customer for every degree their product is made to improve. Why can they not just make it the best and simply offer the best? Of course, like it is that simple.

***

Congratulations to the new Council and officers of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, Baguio-Benguet chapter. In these times of the deepening economic and political crises it takes courage to stand-up and speak-up not only for their sole-selves but for their colleagues and for society.

We know that the local journalists of the city have difficulty trying to make a worker’s union for journalists work for themselves as good citizens. Especially, over and above the crises, in an atmosphere where a-state created bogeyman dominates their psyche or expansive imagination. So much that at many times scares themselves away from the opportunity to make a difference in their profession. Yet, only they as a group of professionals who care to be the Fourth Estate can decide to be a real Fourth Estate or just one of those. NUJP-BB, matago-tago tako.

***

If you are not at the Pride March today, you should go out and at least have a glimpse of it. This march, is the first of its kind in our city. It is not the usual closed-door march-on-the-ramp Miss Gay beauty contest – though more colorful, liberating and exciting. This march is guaranteed to tickle everyone PINK and more!

The conservative but a tad more open-minded City of Baguio will be happy to learn and finally openly celebrate with pride and with this group of people, who were usually hiding or were hidden in the skirts or under the hair of society. The Baguio people who like normal human beings are usually afraid of what they do not know, or afraid of anything new or strange to their so popularity-set or simple, tradition-defined normal ways. To simply see and realize that our gay and lesbian population are standing up for their rights to be recognized and respected, is in itself liberating for the thought-to-be extremely homophobic Baguio society.

I am sure without doubt, my brood of ten boys (sons, nephews and grandnephews) and four girls will roll on their bellies in laughter and tears to see their aunties, uncles and several close friends coming-out on the march. Not because they are different or weird or alien but because these kids will be so proud to see them marching proud and high as normal part of society, a society they thought discriminated against these aunts, uncles and friends. Oh, they will really roll on their bellies with the overwhelming release of all that mixture of emotions and false ideas crammed down in the hiding places of their young minds and hearts, for so long!

It is not only their freedom to come out but it also is liberating for straights not having to say they are straights and be able to be with them, work and walk with them without fear of discrimination, alienation or being jeered at. I tip my hat.#(NorDis)

GenSan, Sarangani eyed for jatropha production

July 23, 2008

Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 08:54
var sburl4866 = window.location.href; var sbtitle4866 = document.title;var sbtitle4866=encodeURIComponent(“GenSan, Sarangani eyed for jatropha production”); var sburl4866=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=4777&#8243;); sburl4866=sburl4866.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl4866=encodeURIComponent(sburl4866);GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 July) – With 172,500 hectares of ready expansion area for jatropha production, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today endorsed plans by the Philippine National Oil Company’s Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC) to develop this city and nearby Sarangani province as major production areas for biofuels in the country.

In her visit to the two-hectare jatropha nursery and plantation of the PNOC-AFC and partner firm Jubilee Agri-Advancement Corporation (JAC) in sitio Lanton, barangay Apopong here this morning, the President directed PNOC-AFC officials to speed up the development and expansion this year of the jatropha nurseries and plantations in the area.

PNOC-AFC chair Renato Velasco said this city and Sarangani can offer at least 172,500 hectares for the production of Jatropha curcas, locally known as tuba-tuba.

Velasco said this city’s 140.57 hectares of jatropha plantation may expand up to 10,000 hectares.

He said Sarangani’s current jatropha plantation area of 238.36 hectares may be expanded up to 162,500 hectares.

“These are among our priority production areas for jatropha and eventually its end-product, the biofuels,” he told the President, who was joined by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and local officials led by South Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Darlene Custodio and City Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr.

The President, clad in light blue raincoat, arrived at around 10am here amid morning drizzle. She was met by a cheering crowd of around 300 people, mostly barangay officials and jatropha farmers.

After the briefing, she inspected the jatropha nursery facility and briefly observed several workers harvesting seeds of the plant.

After signing Republic Act 9367 or the Biofuels Act of 2006, the President directed the PNOC-AFC to spearhead the production of biofuels in the country.

Last Feb. 7, the PNOC-AFC and JAC signed a memorandum of agreement on the establishment of a 500-hectare jatropha orchard here and in Sarangani for seedlings propagation and seed production to supply the requirements of plantations in the area.

The JAC, in partnership with farmer growers, has already planted 783 hectares with jatropha in General Santos City alone, which could produce one ton of seeds per week.

Last July 3, the PNOC-AFC and Landan People’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative, a pineapple growers’ cooperative of Dole Philippines based in Polomolok, South Cotabato, signed an agreement to plant jatropha on 5,000 hectares of marginal, idle unproductive lands in the area.

Eco-Global, a Korean biodiesel producer has also expressed interest in establishing commercial-scale jatropha nurseries cum plantations in various areas in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sararangani and General Santos.

Jatropha curcas has been found to have the best potential for biodiesel having a yield of up to 40 percent of oil from its seed.

Based on this estimate, planting 2,000-2,500 jatropha plants per hectare could yield up to five tons of seeds or an equivalent of about 3,000 liters of biodiesel, which is now popular in Europe as an additive to petrochemical fuel. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

Biofuels depriving world of 100 million tons of cereals

July 22, 2008

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 07:32:00 07/22/2008

HAVANA — The production of biofuels is depriving the world of around 100 million tons of cereals that could go to feed the hungry, the head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said Monday on a visit to Cuba.

Increased oil prices and trade barriers have prompted farmers to rush to cultivate more profitable crops used for biofuels rather than for food, Jacques Diouf said in a speech at the University of Havana.

“The result is nearly 100 million tons of cereals that have been removed from the food market to satisfy energy needs,” he said.

Diouf, who was in Cuba to study moves being made by the communist government to cope with the world food crisis, said corn and wheat outputs were being particularly hard hit.

Traditional farming systems may be “radically” upended by the large and growing energy market, said Diouf, who is a fierce critic of biofuels.

“The use of agricultural resources for the energy market may introduce a completely new paradigm in world agriculture,” he said.

“If energy prices remain high and the production of primary materials for the energy market continue to be an economically viable activity, the result will be a turnaround in the tendency towards decreasing real prices … and, consequently, food will continue to become more and more expensive,” he warned.

The World Bank estimates that food prices have almost doubled over the past three years. Its president, Robert Zoellick, has said two billion people are affected by the food crisis.(PDI)

Davao Oriental Folk: We Want Food, Not Mining

July 21, 2008

As the government is set to conduct a mining summit in Davao City this month, residents called on the government to prioritize solutions on the food crisis.

BY BULATLAT
Volume VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

DAVAO ORIENTAL – Various organizations here have called on the government to stop promoting its mining industry revitalization and instead resolve the food crisis.

The province of Davao Oriental will conduct a mining summit tentatively set on July 27 to 28 in Davao City aimed at addressing the row between two mining corporations – BHP Billiton and Asiaticus Mining Corporation (AMCOR). Both are involved in a billion-dollar  Pujada Nickel Mining project in the City of Mati.

In a statement, Macambol Multisectoral Alliance for Integral Development (MMSAID), said, “No amount of mining summit can resolve the food crisis that we are facing now. The government must prioritize the basic needs of the people.”

The MMSAID deemed that the Pujada Hallmark Nickel Mining Project ‘will not address the current food crisis but will only worsen the situation as the farmers, fisherfolks and lumads will be dispossessed of their own livelihoods.’

Barangay Macambol is situated between two protected areas namely Pujada Bay Protected Seascape and Mt. Hamiguitan Range, a proclaimed wildlife sanctuary.

Mt. Hamiguitan is home to more or less four hundred (400) hectares of “pygmy forests”, exotic plants and wild animals. Rattan, timber and non-timber products are the sources of community livelihood here.

Below the contract area is the Pujada Bay, a protected seascape and landscape by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 431. A biodiversity hotspot, it hosts endangered species such as dugongs or sea cows, sea turtles and sting rays. It is the major source of livelihood of the coastal community.

The group also said that the project will also bring with it additional problems like displacement or ejection of families living within the contract areas and the destruction of marine resources.

Conflict

The Pujada Hallmark Nickel Project is one of the top 23 priority mining projects of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and is expected to bring in more than $1.5 billion in investment for the country.
By virtue of transfer of rights, Hallmark and Austral-Asia purportedly got a permit to conduct exploration activities in Macambol. These companies are only derivative corporations from the original seven domestic mining corporations that previously secured Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) in the area. Later, they sold their rights to Asiaticus Mining Corporation (AMCOR). In 2002, AMCOR entered into a joint venture agreement with BHP-Billiton

In July 2007, AMCOR and BHP-Billiton were locked up in a legal battle after the former decided to rescind its contract with BHP-Billiton for failure to comply with their reciprocal obligations stated in their joint venture agreement.

In an Omnibus Order dated May 20, 2008, Judge Winlove Dumayas of the Makati regional trial court Branch 59 ordered BHP Billiton against “using, occupying, exploring, developing and exercising acts of ownership of mining right over the Pujada Properties.”

But according to MMSAID leaders, BHP-Billiton representatives are still actively campaigning for support from the residents of Barangay Macambol.  MMSAID said that even if the court has already barred BHP-Billiton from the area, AMCOR continue to push for the mining project.

Development

The group said they are opposed to a development framework that will only ‘inflict tremendous damage to our people and environment.’ “We’re strongly against the plunder of the country’s mineral wealth to satisfy the greed of foreign investors,” said MMSAID.

Dr. Cirilo Valles, chairperson of Luwas Kinaiyahan, an alliance of people’s organizations and individuals working for the protection of the environment, said in the vernacular, “I’ve witnessed what had happened in Marinduque, Siocon, and Surigao and in other areas in our country where there are mining operations.  I don’t want those disasters to happen here.  That’s why I’m strongly against any mining operations, small scale or large scale, because they have the same negative effects to the people and environment.”

Meanwhile, Jean Marie M. Ferraris of the Legal Rights Center (LRC) urged the government to stop issuing mining permits. She said, “Mining investments will not feed the people.  The country will only be thrown into deeper economic turmoil if the government will continue to disregard the legitimate sentiments of the communities.”

The MMSAID said, “We will continue to resist all mining companies that will conduct operations in our area.” Bulatlat

Energy Firm to Start Exploration in Mt. Kanlaon; Negrenses Face Great Risks

July 21, 2008

The approval by the provincial government of a memorandum allowing the entry of Energy Development Corporation, formerly PNOC-EDC, into the 169-hectare buffer zone of Mt. Kanlaon National Park, poses a danger to the people of Negros. If such activities are not stopped, Negros might experience the same kind of devastation as that of Iloilo and Aklan during typhoon Frank.

BY KARL G. OMBION
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

BACOLOD CITY – Negros Occidental Governor Isidro Zayco has recently signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) allowing the expansion of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) inside the Mt. Kanlaon National Park (MKNP).

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza earlier granted EDC a tree cutting permit within the 169-hectare buffer zone.

The MoA of EDC and the provincial government purportedly intends to address the Negros Occidental’s power needs but at the same time commits to preserve and protect the environment and the resources in MKNP. It also requires the EDC to sell power at a price lower than or equal to that of the alternative power projects and to give priority in the sale of its electricity to the electric cooperatives in Negros island.

The MoA also reiterated the conditions set in the governor’s Executive Order creating an Oversight, Monitoring and Compliance Committee, to which the EDC will have to submit a detailed work program and a stand and stock table covering its activities in the 169-hectare MKNP buffer zone.

The MoA also includes a stipulation that the EDC must confine its geothermal development activities within the perimeters duly delineated and established by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in coordination with the Park Board and the Oversight committee; that the EDC must ensure that the cutting of trees with a diameter of 100 centimeters and beyond shall be limited to only 34 trees, and that it should exert all efforts to minimize the cutting of trees to a number lower than 34.

The MoA further required the EDC to institute and implement a Comprehensive Environmental and Reforestation Program to mitigate the effects of the exploration inside the buffer zone, and states that its reforestation activity at the MKNP shall involve 160,000 trees planted and grown over a span of five years to cover an area of 400 hectares; and provided that the cutting of trees by the EDC shall be done in the presence of the Oversight, Monitoring and Compliance Committee, and the company should give preference to the people residing in the locality for its unskilled labor requirement in its exploration activities.

EDC President and CEO Paul Aquino told local media that he was grateful to Zayco and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Council), saying that they have stood up for what is right and legal.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, on the other hand, welcomed the decision by the provincial government, saying, “With the signing of the memorandum of agreement, EDC can now tap additional geothermal power to generate the province’s much needed power,” and added that “those who oppose the project should respect the decision of the local government and the desire of majority of Negrenses to support the project in answer to the power shortfall of the province.”

The decision, however, was scored by progressive organizations and various environmental groups in the region, who said that it will open the floodgate for further deforestation of MKNP and thus complete the process of destroying the remaining frontiers of the region.

Bayan Muna (People First) Provincial Chairperson Alejandro Deoma slammed the signing of the MoA allowing EDC to conduct exploration in MKNP, saying that it poses great risks to the people of Negros, considering the already critical state of the island’s forests.

“If such activities are not stopped,” Deoma said, “Negros will likely experience the same kind of devastation that struck Iloilo and Aklan recently.”

MKNP is a protected area

Mt. Kanlaon has been categorized by Republic Act No. 9154 as a natural park because it is an important watershed of Northern and Central Negros. It serves as headwater catchment of three major river systems in the island, namely: Bago, Nahatin and Binalbagan, which supply irrigation water to 158,500 hectares or one-fifth of the Negros Occidental’s entire land area.

Mt. Kanlaon is a protected area included in the Top Ten Priority Sites for Conservation of the Philippine government, which is why RA 9154 or the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park (MKNP) Act of 2001 was enacted to protect and conserve it.

Based on 1989 Swedish Space Agency satellite data, Negros has only 39,630 hectares (4.77 percent) forest cover left. Since then, incidence of deforestration and denudation continue unabated throughout the island, causing local environmental advocates to assert that the remaining forest cover of the island may now only be between 3.5 percent and four percent.

The current rate is already alarmingly below the 40-percent forest cover needed to maintain a balanced ecosystem on the island.

“The 169 hectares is a very a huge area, a home to diverse flora and fauna species. Cutting more trees in MKNP or elsewhere in Negros will certainly imperil the Negrense’s water supply, agriculture and will entail irreparable damage to whatever biodiversity,” Deoma said

Deoma also clarified that Section 5 of RA 9154 provides that “any geothermal exploration for or development of energy or mineral resources within the MNKP shall not be allowed except by an Act of Congress. This provision shows clearly that any geothermal exploration can only be done only through an act of Congress. Gloria [Macapagal-Arroyo] and her environment chief Atienza should not jump the gun on the public as this is clearly illegal.”

He added that the government’s decision to pursue this project is illegal as it violates the many of our nation’s laws and international environment covenants that the Philippines is a party to.

No power shortage

EDC has sought entry into the buffer zone to tap more geothermal energy for its Northern Negros Geothermal Production Field in Mailum, Bago City, to meet a supposed projected power shortage in Negros Occidental.

But militant groups disputed the claims of EDC and even by the local governments that Negros is having a power shortage.

Felipe Gelle of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Negros said that there is enough power supply for the entire Negros generated by the Palipinon geothermal power plant in Negros Oriental.

“The EDC’s plan to tap geothermal energy in Mt. Kanlaon is actually intended not for the poor power consumers of Negros but for the big businesses and multinational corporations coming in, including those putting up expansions in neighboring islands of Panay and Cebu,” Gelle said.

He added that even if there would be more power supply in Negros, the poor will not benefit from it because the EDC, like the big oil cartels, will just continue to hike the costs of their power to rake in super profits.

Class suit

The Save Mt. Kanlaon Coalition, a loose movement of various environmentalist groups, has recently sought the immediate stoppage to the entry of EDC into the buffer zone surrounding MKNP for geothermal development.

Lawyer Andrea Si, the group’s legal counsel and one of the pioneering members, said that they have filed a prohibitory injunction with temporary restraining order against the EDC’s operations in MKNP.

The group has asked the court to declare as unconstitutional sections of RA 9154 creating a 169-hectare MKNP buffer zone for development of geothermal energy resources, and Presidential Proclamation No. 1005 that declares a 1,475-hectare area in the MKNP as a geothermal block.

They also asked the court to declare a 1995 Environment Compliance Certificate granted EDC for geothermal development invalid, and to render void its DENR tree-cutting permit within the buffer zone.

Two hundred ninety-one complainants, including 87 children, joined the filing of a class suit against Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, the Energy Development Corp., and the Protected Area Management Board of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park before the Bacolod City Regional Trial Court.

Bacolod City Councilor Celia Flor, who is also a member of the Save Mt. Kanlaon Coalition, has urged the public to support their opposition to the MOA, and appealed for various support to their campaign. Bulatlat

Mini-hydro to save Ifugao terraces

July 19, 2008

LAGAWE, Ifugao — Ifugao Governor Teddy Baguilat Jr., Sec. Angelo Reyes of Department of Energy (DoE) and Mitsuru Shimizu, project manager of e8, signed a memorandum of agreement for the construction of a mini-hydro in Ambangal, Kiangan, Ifugao Wednesday in Taguig, Metro-Manila.

The Ambangal Mini-hydro project was conceptualized in 2003 for the preservation of the Ifugao rice terraces and for cheaper source of electricity for the province.

The project which features the development of a run-of-river hydro-power plant (200 kW) will be funded and implemented by e8 through the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) with the support of the Department of Energy and the Provincial Government of Ifugao.

Community consultations and pre-feasibility studies were conducted last year and the year-long feasibility study started in the second quarter of 2007. The construction of the said mini-hydro project is estimated to start third quarter this year after the acquisition of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) from the involved communities and will begin operations in 2009.

The e8 is a non-profit organization composed of nine leading electricity companies from the G8 countries that promote sustainable development through electricity sector projects and human capacity building activities in developing countries worldwide.

G8 is an acronym for the Group of Eight, or the most powerful countries in the world, that includes Japan, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Russia and the US.

Toyoto Matsuoka of e8 said part of the project’s power sales will go to a rice terraces conservation fund to be used in the rehabilitation of damaged rice terraces and communal irrigations, reforestation project, and enhancement and promotion of traditional culture programs.

According to Reyes, “The terraces is in a rapidly deteriorating state and is needing repair. This project is well designed as it incorporates environmental, social, cultural, economic, and historical aspects. It provides livelihood and income to the community thus improving the way of life of the people and enhances one of the wonders of the world currently in danger of being enlisted from the heritage sites of Unesco.”

“This project is a miracle not only for me but for the people of Ifugao. It will provide IFELCO (Ifugao Electric Cooperative) with cheaper source of energy.” said . Baguilat. “The project once completed will serve as a stepping stone for other investors to invest on social enterprise projects in Ifugao. We will devote our time, effort, and logistics for the success of this project.” # Robie Halip(NorDis)

Coal-fired power firm plans carbon sink

July 16, 2008

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 July) – Thai-Filipino joint venture firm Conal Holdings Corporation and the local government of Maasim in Sarangani province have agreed to jointly develop a 10,000-hectare carbon dioxide sink or reservoir in preparation for the planned construction of a 200-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in the area.


Coal is considered as the dirtiest fuel, and environment groups have been campaigning for its banning as an energy source.

In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Conal Holdings and Maasim committed to reforest, rehabilitate and develop Maasim’s vast brushlands, grasslands and forestlands for the establishment of a natural carbon sink for the company’s coal-fired power plant, which will be built starting next year at the coastal village of Kamanga.

“Conal is committed to support the development of tree farms, small scale agro-forestry systems and tree plantations as carbon sink with the different tenure holders and legitimate forest occupants in the forestlands of Maasim,” the MOU said.

Maasim Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr. and Conal Holdings Vice President Joseph Nocos signed the MOU, which was finalized last June 21.

Conal Holdings, a joint venture of the Alcantara family’s Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc. and Thailand’s Egko, earlier announced that it will invest at least $450 million for the development of the Kamanga Power Plant in Maasim.

Sarangani Governor Miguel Dominguez’ mother is an Alcantara.

The Kamanga Power Plant project aims to initially generate 200 MW of electricity and help stabilize the Mindanao power grid by 2011, with two incremental expansions of 350 MW over a period of 15 years.

In the MOU, a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews last Friday, Conal Holdings acknowledged that the proposed coal-fired power plant “will emit greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere that may pollute the air and contribute to global warming.”

To help counter this problem, the company is banking on the development of the carbon sink in the area and the utilization of the circulating fluidized bed combustion technology, which reportedly reduces pollutant emissions to levels below ceilings set by Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999.

It stressed that Conal Holdings is committed to support the national government’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Rolando Tubales, Maasim environment and natural resources officer, said the development of the carbon sink is a requirement for the operation of coal-fired power plants under the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nation’s Agenda 21 program for sustainable development.

“Studies showed that one of the most effective measures to sequester carbon emission is the planting of trees,” he told MindaNews.

Tubales said Conal Holdings and the municipal government plan to develop at least 10,000 hectares as carbon sink, but he stressed that the area will be expanded within the next several years.

He said Maasim currently has an available open area of about 44,000 hectares, which are within the declared public lands in the area.

He said at least 91 percent of Maasim’s total land area of 51,107 hectares is classified as public lands.

The official said the development of the carbon sink will be based on the provisions of Maasim’s four-year old municipal Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP).

He said the local government is currently implementing the FLUP with the tenure holders of legitimate forest and forestlands.

Under the MOU, Conal Holdings and the local government of Maasim also committed to “collaborate and share their human, technical, material and financial resources in the formulation and development of specific terms of agreement that will govern the establishment, management, protection and sharing arrangement of the carbon sink.”

They will also spearhead the creation of a technical working group that will be tasked to formulate the terms of a memorandum of agreement that will specify the establishment, development, management and sharing agreements of the tree farms, small scale agro forestry systems and tree plantations that will be covered by the carbon sink by the end of September.

Conal Holdings and the local government of Maasim are targeting to transform the MOU into a MOA before the end of the year or upon the approval and endorsement of the municipal council and the Sarangani provincial board. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

Probe of new ERC chief’s energy-related deals vowed

July 15, 2008

BY JP LOPEZ

SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday vowed to scrutinize whatever connections new Energy Regulatory Commission chair Zenaida Ducut may have had with some power-generating companies dealing with the National Power Corp.

Lacson said he received information of alleged links of Ducut with some power-generating firms, specifically those involved in the use of coal, supposedly owned by some perceived Palace cronies.

“Busisiin natin kung meron bang connection ang mga korporasyon na nakikipag-deal sa Napocor sa bagong ERC chair o may connection sa cronies ng Pangulo o sa First Family,” he said.

Lacson has said Ducut’s appointment is a calibrated move of President Arroyo to control the power sector by appointing her allies to strategic positions related to the power industry.

In turnover ceremonies yesterday at the ERC office, Ducut said she applied for the position and was chosen based on her qualifications.

“I’m a lawyer by profession, and I’ve been in the practice of law for more than 10 years, which are the requirements to become chairman of this commission. And aside from that, I have my credentials to speak of. I’ve been with the legislative, judicial and executive branch of the government. I’ve been deputy presidential legal counsel,” she said.

Ducut will serve for a fixed term of seven years.

On her business partnership with Rodolfo “Bong Pineda, the President’s “kumpadre” and an alleged jueteng lord, she said, “I don’t deny that Bong Pineda was one of my clients. That relationship ended in 1995.” – With Myla Iglesias(Malaya)

Bataan Bishop cautions gov’t not to open Nuclear Plant

July 13, 2008

MANILA, July 11, 2008—Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas cautioned the government not to open the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant citing it may cause hazards to environment and people.

“Our country’s leadership has floated the idea of reviving this monument of greed and incompetence in an effort to address the global energy crisis. This move follows what is being seen as the increasing incidence of unbridled and shameless graft and corruption that the country had in the 1970s and ’80s,” said Villegas in a pastoral statement dated July 7.

Villegas also advised the government to seek other feasible answers to meet the country’s energy crisis.

“We appeal to the national leadership to look beyond the present energy crisis and see the adverse effects of nuclear power in the rest of the world,” the bishop said.

In June, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said the government was thinking to open mothballed 630-megawatt nuclear power plant to boost the country’s energy supply as the country foresees energy scarcity next year.

Former president Ferdinand Marcos pursued in establishing the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which was reportedly tainted with corruption. (Santosh Digal)

Arroyo lawyer leads ERC derby

July 10, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:43:00 07/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Rodolfo Albano Jr. retired Wednesday, setting off intense buzzing over who Malacañang would chose as his replacement.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the ERC post has become a vital position in view of the public debate on surging oil and power prices.

“It’s the President’s choice,” he conceded, but added that he hoped she would appoint a credible and experienced individual to head the regulatory body.

Among the names being floated as possible replacements are deputy chief presidential legal counsel Zenaida Ducut; corporate counsel and former Ateneo law professor Alberto Agra and Lanao del Norte Rep. Alipio Cirilo Badelles.

Ducut, former Pampanga Representative and a close ally of the President, was rumored to be a strong contender.

Asked for confirmation, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol said: “She’s one of the candidates. She might already have been appointed.”

But ERC spokesperson Francis Saturnino Juan said the regulatory agency had yet to receive the appointment papers of Albano’s replacement.

ERC commissioner Alejandro Barin has been named officer-in-charge starting Friday.

Ducut, who hails from Lubao, practiced law mainly in San Fernando, Pampanga, as branch clerk of court in 1983, and research attorney and prosecuting fiscal in 1986.

She started her political career in 1992 when she was elected councilor of Lubao, then congresswoman in 1995. Abigail L. Ho and Gil Cabacungan Jr.

===============================

My Take:

A friend of mine txted me about this news. He’s fuming. Said that someone he knew told him that ducut flunked the bar 4 times.  Ito raw ba ang klase ng taong pagkakatiwalaan nating maging bisor ng mga bagay, usapin at programang may kaugnayan sa ating elektrisidad? Hmmm…

50% INCREASE IN PUMP PRICES OVER PAST YEAR SHOWS URGENCY OF REGULATION

July 3, 2008

Oil prices have increased by an average of 50% over the past year, highlighting the failure of oil deregulation in bringing down petroleum prices and the urgency of reinstating regulation, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

Between June 2007 and June 2008, average pump prices of unleaded gasoline and diesel have increased by 47% and 52%, respectively.

Further, since the start of deregulation in 1996, pump prices of unleaded gas have increased by 492 percent. Meanwhile prices of diesel have increased by 607 percent.

Oil deregulation was supposed to ensure affordable and accessible petroleum products by breaking up the local oil cartel, allowing “market forces” to determine the real price of oil. Instead, it only gave Shell, Petron and Chevron (formerly Caltex), more room for speculation and to dictate prices and price hikes. IBON estimates that as much as 47% to 54% of the pump price of petroleum products represents windfall profits of the oil firms.

An effective way to break up the monopoly control of the oil firms over the local downstream oil sector and ensure affordable and accessible oil products is to revoke the oil deregulation law and give the government regulatory authority over the oil industry. (end)

Evaluate Bataan nuke plant thoroughly, IAEA cautions RP

July 1, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 09:22:00 07/01/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has cautioned the Philippines and other countries considering the revival of nuclear energy options not to let “commercial interests take precedence over safety issues.”

The IAEA, after completing a multidisciplinary and independent fact-finding and safety assessment mission to the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, recommended further evaluations by technical experts.

According to a report on the IAEA website, the agency made two primary recommendations: “First, BNPP’s status must be thoroughly evaluated by technical inspections and economic evaluations conducted by a committed group of nuclear power experts with experience in preservation management.

“Second, the mission advised the Philippines on the general requirements for starting its nuclear power program, stressing that the proper infrastructure, safety standards and knowledge be implemented.”

“In the case of Bataan, the plant was completed over 20 years ago. Our mission visited the plant to gauge the current state of the plant, but our suggestion to the Philippines was simply on what steps they need to take and what needs to be considered to complete their own assessment,” explained Akira Omoto, director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Power and leader of the mission to the Philippines.

“The government has to assess what the new licensing requirements should be, how to modernize the two-decade-old technology to current standards, and how to confirm that all aspects of the plant will function properly and safely. It is not the IAEA’s role to state whether the plant is usable or not, or how much it will cost to rehabilitate,” said Omoto. Cynthia D. Balana

Auditors: Nuclear plants not following fire rules

July 1, 2008

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer Mon Jun 30, 5:23 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Operators of nuclear power plants have yet to comply with some of the government’s fire safety rules three decades after they were issued, a congressional report said Monday.

The Government Accountability Office said there were 125 fires reported at 54 power plants since 1995, an average of nearly 10 a year, although none threatened safe emergency reactor shutdown or posed any significant safety threats. The fires were mostly electrical or maintenance related.

But the GAO study said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been unable to resolve “several long-standing issues” with the industry over fire safety including full compliance with NRC fire rules put in place in 1976 and 1980 as a result of the fire at the Browns Ferry plant in Alabama in 1975.

The blaze, which raged for seven hours at the Browns Ferry Unit 1 reactor, was the worst fire ever at an American nuclear plant. It exposed for the first time that nuclear reactors needed special fire protection to assure a fire did not prevent a reactor from safely shutting down.

The report said some nuclear reactor operators are:

_Using unapproved fire safety manuals.

_Relying on interim, temporary fixes in response to fire damage instead of making permanent repairs. In one case a plant used “fire watches” — designed as temporary safety procedures — for five years instead of replacing damaged parts.

_Continuing to rely on manual responses, such as a person having to close or open a valve, instead of passive fire protective measures.

_Using fire protective wraps around electrical wires without having conducted needed fire endurance tests on the material.

The nuclear industry had no immediate comment on the report. “We haven’t had time to examine it,” said John Keeley, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade group.

The NRC did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

As industry showed problems with meeting the NRC’s “prescriptive” fire safety rules, the NRC in 2004 encouraged reactor operators to adopt a “risk based” approach in which plant operators focused fire safety efforts in areas of the plant where a fire would pose the greatest threat to plant operation and emergency shutdown.

As of April, the new approach had been adopted at only 46 of the 105 reactors, the GAO investigators found.

And the GAO report said the risk-based approach itself faces significant challenges including a shortage of “people with fire modeling, risk assessment and plant-specific expertise” to assure the safety efforts are focused on the right priorities.

PB asks power coop to explain fees in bill

June 22, 2008

THE Iloilo Provincial Board is set to ask the Iloilo Electric Cooperative 1 (Ileco I) about the fees listed on its monthly bill.

A group from the Municipality of Oton asked the board to look into the alleged anomalies committed by the electric cooperative.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

Kontra Selos, Incorporated (Kontra System Energy Loss, Incorporated) had asked weeks ago for an explanation from Ileco 1 on its policies concerning meter reading, meter cutoff, and distribution of electric bills.

But Malvin Nad, Ileco 1 board of director, allegedly neglected the group’s request, and this pushed Kontra to study the components of the electric bill.

The group said it has found some discrepancies in the electric cooperative’s power rate charges.

“We found out that aside from the generation charges, Ileco 1 has included additional charges entitled components of an unbundled electric bill,” the group’s statement said.

Kontra Selos said the unbundled components of the electric bill should be shouldered by Ileco 1 and not by the end users.

Included in the unbundled components are the metering charge and power cut-off charge.

Moreover, the group alleged that bills of consumers who failed to pay their dues were also charged on other consumers. (EC)

Pump prices go up again on weekend

June 21, 2008

By Euan Paulo C. Añonuevo, Reporter

Fuel prices are expected to rise again today, as oil firms said they have to recover losses incurred from the soaring prices of crude in the world market.

Oil prices in Asian trade went up on Friday after sliding earlier.

Oil firms in the Philippines are expected to hike prices by another P1.50 per liter after incurring P7.50 in under-recoveries. Earlier, they recovered P3 of the amount, which means that price hikes would continue until July.

Starting June 14, the prevailing domestic price of fuel has been averaging at P55.26 to P57.07 for unleaded gasoline; P52.10 to P55.30 for kerosene; and P48 to P49.97 for diesel.

The price of an 11-kilogram liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder has been hovering between P615 and P661.

The Department of Energy reported that as of June 20, the monthly average price of the regional benchmark Dubai crude increased by more than $6.50 per barrel compared to the May average.

Also, gasoline and diesel rose by about $8.40 per barrel and $6.50 per barrel to $139.58 per barrel and $168.07 per barrel, respectively, over the previous month levels.

The contract price for LPG rose by $57 per metric ton to $912.50 per metric ton this month.

Dubai crude, gasoline and diesel posted new record highs last week brought about by the sharp depreciation of the dollar against the euro, tensions between Israel and Iran, and the forecast of Morgan Stanley that falling US stockpiles could send crude to $150 a barrel by July 4.

$132 at Asian trade

In Friday’s trading in Singapore, the benchmark oil futures contract, New York’s light sweet crude for July delivery, rose 23 cents higher at $132.16 per barrel.

It had tumbled $4.75 earlier to close at $131.93 in US trade on Thursday following China’s announcement to hike oil prices.

Brent North Sea crude for August delivery rose 45 cents to $132.45 following a drop of $4.44 to settle at $132 in London on Thursday. Both the Brent and New York contracts had fallen in early Asian trade.

China became the latest Asian nation to curb energy subsidies by hiking retail petrol and diesel prices by as much as 18 percent, moving to close the gap between state-set domestic prices and the soaring world oil market.

Analysts said the move by the world’s second biggest oil consumer was important, but differed on its longer-term impact on soaring oil prices, which hit nearly $140 this month from a low under $11 in the 1990s.

“I think it’s very significant,” said Dave Ernsberger, Asia director of global energy information provider Platts. “It is going to eat into demand. I’m pretty sure of that.”

He had called China’s subsidies “the big gorilla in the room” ahead of its price hike announcement Thursday. Experts have said China’s booming economy has up to now been a key driver of the world’s growing appetite for oil.

But the fuel price hike “may temper growth in fuel demand in China, helping moderate demand-based pressure on oil prices,” David Moore, a commodity strategist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, said in a report.

Fuel subsidy cuts elsewhere in Asia are already said to be hurting regional energy demand. Malaysia has hiked fuel prices by 41 percent and Indonesia by around 29 percent, while Taiwan and India have also raised energy costs.

Looking ahead

The longer-term impact of China’s move on world oil prices would not be clear until later in the year, when numbers about demand are released for the market to digest, Ernsberger said.

“It’s possible we won’t see a big impact on the price until September, October,” he said.

Victor Shum, an analyst at Purvin and Gertz energy consultancy in Singapore, said the impact from decreased demand for oil in China was likely to be small, as higher prices would stimulate production.

“The negative impact in demand growth in China may be more than compensated by increased supply,” Shum said.

Global finance officials fear soaring crude costs pose a threat to world economic growth, as higher inflation leads central banks to raise interest rates.

Thursday’s oil price fall of nearly $5 also came as Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC), said it planned to increase output by 200,000 barrels per day.

Shum said the Saudi announcement would not have a major impact because the increase is “not that significant compared to the total oil demand of 86 million barrels a day.”

Concerns about lost Nigerian oil output might outweigh the Saudi increase due to the better grade of the African nation’s crude, Shum said.

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell said it had shut down a Nigerian offshore oilfield after an attack by militants. The field has a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day.

Hugo Chavez, president of OPEC member Venezuela, said prices should be around $100 per barrel, but “could soon reach $200” given political tension, threats against oil producer Iran and a weak US dollar.

Chavez threatened Thursday to shut off oil exports to European countries if they enforce tough new rules on illegal immigrants.

World leaders are also preparing for a high-level meeting between producers and consumer nations on Sunday in Jeddah to discuss soaring prices.
– With AFP(ManilaTimes)

2010 election fund raiser? Privatization of gov’t stake in Petron means more oil price hikes – Bayan Muna

June 19, 2008

BAYAN MUNA Rep. Teddy Casiño is firmly opposing the government’s plan to sell its 40 percent stake in Petron Corporation, saying it would “definitely lead to a permanent regime of oil price hikes as the government losses its only remaining foothold in a deregulated industry dominated by foreign oil firms and their local agents.”

The government is looking to sell its 40% stake in oil giant Petron Corp. by November once approvals are secured from Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo and the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) board next month, Finance Sec. Margarito Teves said yesterday.

“Government, instead of selling Petron, should get back a majority stake to gain market leverage and effectively control the manner, rate, frequency and so-called justifications being made by oil companies in hiking prices. Petron’s sale shows that this government actually favors the weekly oil price hikes done by oil companies. So far, prices have been hiked 15 times this year.  We also view this privatization initiative as an administration fund raiser for its slate in the 2010 elections,” Casiño said.

Petron refines, markets and distributes fuel throughout the Philippines . It has consistently retained its market position, cornering 40 percent share of the country’s fuel market. “It is easy to see that oil price hikes can be effectively be put in check if the state itself has market leverage. The problem with the Arroyo administration is its focus on raising funds – including selling Petron – for purposes other than the people’s immediate relief,” Casiño said.

“Since government rejected British investment firm Ashmore Group’s offer of P6.531 per share, we think that it must instead get majority control of Petron if it is intent to alleviate the people’s sufferings worsened by each oil price hike.  If government wants to take a clear and definite step towards addressing rampant oil price hikes, it should buy back Petron,” Casiño said.

Casiño, principal author of House Bill 3031 that mandates the government to re-acquire control of Petron Corp. said that “government only needs to acquire an additional 11% of Petron shares on top of the PNOC’s 40% stake for the state to gain the majority in the oil firm.” HB 3031 has been pending with the House Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization since November 13, 2007.

The lawmaker said one source of funding for the buyback is the windfall revenues from the VAT on oil and petroleum products estimated to be between P16.7-P18 billion. ###

In Catanduanes: Townsfolk support hydro plant

June 19, 2008

VIRAC, Catanduanes — Close to 3,000 people from various municipalities in the island province of Catanduanes stormed the hearing of the Energy Regulatory Commission here to show their support for the controversial mini hydro-power plant project whose construction was blocked by Gov. Joseph Cua.

Energy Commissioner Rodolfo Albano, Jr., chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission, expressed bemusement upon seeing close to 3,000 people coming in together with streamers and placards expressing their support to the P729 million proposed hydro power plant projects that they said could help resolve the worsening power outages here

The P729 million proposed hydro-power project was initiated by Chinoy businessman Elizaldy Co, president of the Sunwest Water and Power Co. Inc., (SUWECO) based in Legazpi City. To Co’s dismay, the proposed project was opposed by Gov. Cua of this province.

Co accused Cua of protecting the latter’s diesel oil business by turning down the environment-friendly and recyclable hydro power plant. Co’s sentiment were supported by other concerned Bicolano lawmakers and policy makers, including former Senator Francisco Tatad, a native of this province.

The security guards of First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (FICELCO) reportedly barred the people with streamers and placards from entering the premises unless they agreed to leave behind their propaganda materials.

Albano was amazed because according to him it was the first ever in the country wherein thousands of people thronged to attend a commission’s hearing relative to a planned hydro-power plant project.

“This is the first time in the country’s history that the commission conducted the ERC hearing wherein thousands of people are very eager to know the outcome of the hearing. Even Senator Tatad and Bishop Manolo de los Santos are here; seemingly the contract is in the favor of the consumers,” Albano said before large audience here.

Tatad attended the first day of hearing last June 5 from 2:00 pm until 5:00 pm, along with the people of Catanduanes while Bishop De los Santos attended the June 6 hearing from 9: 00 a.m., to 12:00 noon under the scorching heat of the sun within the FICELSO compound.

Albano even requested the people to stand up together as a sign of their respect to the prelate.

Albano flew in this island province to preside over the two-day initial hearing, pre-trial conference and evidentiary hearing for ERC Case No. 2008-021 in the matter of application for approval of the Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) between Ficelco and SUWECO held at Ficelco compound last June 5 and 6. The hearing was conducted after the proposed hydro power plant projects was contested by Gov. Cua before the ERC last May 26, 2008 following the authority given by the provincial board led by Vice Gov. Alfredo M. Aquino last May 7, this year.

Cua cited in his opposition paper to the ERC that the applicant failed to submit the documents prescribed by law; there is no competitive selection process or bidding undertaken by Ficelco in the selection of SUWECO as new power producer; the agreement entered into between Ficelco and Co’s firm did not conduct feasibility study to justify the assumptions made in the Electricity Supply Agreement; the selling price of electricity offered by Co is grossly overpriced and is against the basis established by law, thus SUWECO has no technical and financial capability to undertake the project.

Cua also said that the Ficelco has an existing ESA with several power providers which to date still remains to be in effect not having been declared invalid or rescinded by any competent authority in an appropriate proceeding.

Zaldy Co said that the primary reason why the governor was opposing the project was selfish business interest.

“Kung sa Iloilo mainit kaming sinasalubong ni Gov. Sally Perez nang garland dahil sa hydro power project, dito sa Catandaunes sinalubong kami ni Governor Cua ng bato. Nakakalungkot isipin na kapwa ko pa Bicolano ang hindi supportive at nag-oppose,” Co lamented.

Co told Bicol Mail that as a Bicolano businessman he was pioneering a clean renewable energy project in the region to prepare for the increasing power demand that would result to gradual and global power shortages starting in 2011.

“If he allowed our project, the government will save P200 million a year aside from providing clean energy, employment and income to the province and host municipalities even as it will also attract new investors,” Co told Bicol Mail.

Former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad also assailed Gov. Cua for his vested interest.

He said Cua was involved in the sale and distribution of bunker that would be affected when the hydro plant began to operate.

“Governor Cua should distinguish business interest from politics,” Tatad said.

In an interview over the mobile phone, Gov. Cua denied the accusation of Tatad and Co.

Cua said that he was just questioning the ESA agreement entered into between the FICELCO and SUWECO because there was no competitive bidding done which could possibly be disadvantageous to the prople of Catanduanes in the future.

He admitted he owned three gasoline stations and the National Power Corporation is using his tank as storage of bunk-fed fuel.

“NPC is using my tank as storage of bunker fuel but I am opposing the project because of lapses made within the ESA entered into by SUWECO and FICELCO,” the governor said.

He explained however that despite his opposition, he cannot do anything if ERC finally decided to approve the ESA.

SUWECO is engaged in the installation and distribution of water and electric utilities on the micro level and on macro plane for other similar projects in other parts of the country outside Bicol.

Co said that SUWECO works to help reduce dependency on imported fossil fuel, where prices are constantly increasing.

SUWECO also provides the host community significant revenues as mandated by R.A. 7156 from the operation of the mini-hydro plants.

a“While the province of Albay is a prime energy source for mainland Luzon, its residents and the rest of Bicol have had to cope with more expensive energy rates,” Co said adding that the search for cheaper alternative energy sources becomes even more imperateat economic crisis.

Caption: DIESEL VS HYDRO PLANT. Former Senator Francisco Tatad (seated, 3rd from left of front row among the audience), a native of the island province of Catanduanes, flew home to attend the ERC hearing on the proposed hydro plant which Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua opposes. – RHAYDZ B. BARCIA

On Pessimism and Hope Amid the Surge in Oil Prices

June 19, 2008

Pessimism among the Filipino people is worsening.  This is understandable as there is not let-up in increases in oil prices. Pump prices have already increased 14 times, as of this writing, since the start of the year.  But there is still hope; and hope lies on the people themselves.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008

Pessimism among the Filipino people is worsening.  This is understandable as there is not let-up in increases in oil prices. Pump prices have already increased 14 times, as of this writing, since the start of the year.

A first-quarter survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) for Business World showed that while 29 percent are still optimistic about their quality of life, a slight movement from the 30 percent recorded in December 2007, 23 percent are already pessimistic, an increase from 16 percent last year.

Pessimism about the economy are a lot worse.  According to the latest SWS survey, 45 percent are pessimistic about the economy, a jump from the 37 percent recorded last year.  Those who are still optimistic about the economy dropped to 15 percent from 17 percent.

It is interesting to note that in the graph produced by SWS, pessimism about a change in the quality of life has remained consistently high and optimism consistently low under the Arroyo government compared to the previous administrations.  Pessimism momentarily dropped and optimism only slightly increased in 2007. This in spite of the hype that the country is about to reach “First World” status.

And to think, the survey covered only the first quarter of the year.  Increases in pump prices accelerated during the second quarter. The single biggest increase in pump prices at P1.50 was imposed twice in a row the past two weeks.  Recent announcements by the Arroyo government and oil companies reveal that there is no relief in sight as more increases are forthcoming.

What makes the situation more burdensome is that the surge in oil prices is accompanied by increases in rice, pork, and other food prices.  No amount of assurances by the Arroyo government that the crisis is ‘manageable’ could deny the fact that people are finding it more and more difficult to cope with the price increases.  The Arroyo government even keeps on repeating the false claim that it could not do anything about the price increases except to distribute crumbs.

Given these, it is but understandable for people to see a bleak picture ahead.  But there is still hope; and hope lies on the people themselves.

People all over the world are starting to rise up to confront the problem of oil price increases.  Truck drivers in Spain declared an indefinite strike and blocked the country’s border to and from France. They joined Spain’s fishermen who have been on strike against oil price increases.

Truckers in France followed suit and blocked their side of the border while 200 other French haulers drove around Bordeaux in a slow convoy. They were joined by taxi drivers. Truck and taxi drivers did the same in Paris. Farmers outside Lille, the northern industrial city of France near the border with Belgium, drove around in their tractors as a form of protest; 16 Total petrol stations were blocked also by farmers; 300 to 500 farmers rallied in the eastern city of Mertz riding behind cart-horses on a mixture of bicycles and rollerskates; and 500 farmers in Toulouse, in southwestern France also staged their own protest action. Fishermen in France have been on strike for three weeks and they blocked roads leading to oil depots in at Fos-sur-Mer near Marseille in the south and Marmande in the southwest.

Fishermen in Italy, Greece, and Portugal followed suit. Earlier, Italian fishermen have already been blockading fish ports as a form of protest. Dairy farmers in Germany also went on strike.  They were followed by farmers in Austira, Demark, Holland, and Belgium.

In Portugal, truck drivers also launched an open-ended strike threatening to block the flow of goods to the south.  In Britain, around 300 trucks are expected to converge in London on July 2 and the Road Haulage Association, with members all over England, would conduct a protest action at the same time.  About 100 truckers in Wales also held a protest action.  Truck and taxi drivers drove around Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, to protest government inaction on oil price increases. Unions of small trucking firms from seven European Union States, including France, the Netherlands, Hungary, and Slovenia would meet soon to coordinate protest actions.

In India, protests broke out in Kashmir, and India’s communist parties, which have a strong following in West Bengal and Kerala, have called for week-long protest actions. Protests have also broken out in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Locally, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) and its member organizations, which includes the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), GABRIELA, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Health Alliance for Democracy, the Promotion of Church People’s Response, among others, have been holding weekly protest actions, mostly noise barrages and pickets, to demand that the Arroyo government takes more decisive and effective measures such as the removal of the VAT on petroleum products and the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law to mitigate the effects of the surge in oil prices and to protect the Filipino people against the price manipulation of big oil companies and speculative attacks of financial investment houses and banks.

It is foolish to say that nothing can be done to control and put a stop to the surge in oil prices.  After all price manipulation and speculative attacks are being done by corporations and not supernatural beings. The Arroyo government refuses to heed the people’s demands because it is more interested in the increasing VAT collections it gets with the oil price increases and in currying the favor of oil companies and other foreign investors.  It is up to us to force the Arroyo government to act or to suffer the consequences of refusing to do so. Bulatlat

Privatization of Power Sector, the Root of High Power Rates

June 19, 2008

The impetus behind the current crisis is the restructuring of the sector through the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or EPIRA, one of the first laws signed by President Gloria Arroyo in 2001.

BY IBON FEATURES
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008

Amid the flurry of accusations between private distributor Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and state-run National Power Corporation (Napocor) over unjust charges, one fact remains clear: privatization and deregulation of the power industry– distribution, transmission and generation – is at the heart of high electricity bills.

For example, consider the multitude of unjust “pass-on” charges levied by Meralco on its customers. These include system losses, in which power lost through pilferage and technical problems are passed on to consumers and P500-million ($11,258,725 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.41) a year of Meralco’s own power consumption, which is similarly reflected in electric bills. There is also a reported plan to pass bad debts incurred by the power distributor on to consumers.

These charges have been approved by the government Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), which is tasked to regulate the rates of electricity distributors. Although blame has been placed on the ERC’s lax regulation for such excessive “pass-on” rates, in truth the regulatory environment has become lenient because of deregulation of the power sector and while moving towards full privatization.

It should also be noted that although Meralco is a public utility with a congressional franchise, its essential nature is a private, profit-oriented corporation listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). Thus, it should not be surprising that the company exploits legal loopholes to levy such unwarranted charges in order to fatten its bottom line and make its stockholders and owners happy.

The privatization of the power sector created profit opportunities for private-sector independent power producers (IPPs). In order to quickly attract investors to the sector, government had to ensure the power producers’ profitability. Thus, onerous provisions such as “take or pay” (which required Napocor to buy 70-100 percent of power producers’ output) and ‘fuel cost guarantee’ (which obligated Napocor to source and pay for fuel used by IPPs) were tacked onto IPP contracts. These provisions bloated consumers’ power bills through charges such as the infamous Purchased Power Adjustment (PPA). They also contributed to Napocor’s skyrocketing debt burden.

It will be remembered that a government-mandated review of 35 IPP contracts during the Arroyo administration found that only six were “clean” or without financial or legal issues. Five were found to contain “onerous” terms that were “grossly disadvantageous to government.” However none of these contracts were cancelled, and were instead “renegotiated”.

High transmission charges have also been blamed as a factor in high power rates. But the National Transmission Corporation (Transco) is also set for privatization, and thus, needs to charge high rates in order to attract potential investors. It should also be noted that transmission charges are regulated by the ERC as well.

Open access

The impetus behind the current crisis is the restructuring of the sector through the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or EPIRA, which was one of the first laws signed by President Gloria Arroyo in 2001.

Before EPIRA the sector was composed of generation, transmission and distribution sectors. Napocor generated electricity on its own and bought electricity from IPPs, and transmitted this to distributors and large industrial customers through high-voltage wires. Distribution of electricity to end-consumers was done by privately-owned electric utilities, a few government-owned utilities and electric cooperatives.

Under EPIRA, the various components of the power sector are separated into generation, transmission, distribution and supply. Generation and transmission assets of Napocor would be privatized while distribution would continue to be handled by the private sector. The end goal of the sale of Napocor’s generation assets is “open access” which is government’s supposed answer to high electricity prices. “Open access” ostensibly aims to introduce competition into the industry by allowing consumers to select their supplier.

EPIRA advocates claim that competition would lower rates, particularly with a provision which states that no power generator should control more than 30 percent of supply in a given grid and ostensibly prevents monopolies. But the experience of the deregulation of the downstream oil industry demonstrates that such “competition” does not bring down prices. Deregulation has resulted in new players taking 12 percent of the market while the big three oil firms (Petron, Shell and Chevron) share the remaining 88 percent or an average of 29 percent per firm. This has not stemmed cartel-like behavior with oil industry players raising pump prices nearly simultaneously. It has also not resulted in lower prices, as pump prices of all petroleum products have raised an average of almost 580 percent since deregulation of the industry was implemented in 1996.

EPIRA also notably allows cross-ownership between distributors and generators. This has allowed the Lopez family to own a controlling share in Meralco while also owning IPPs. This situation has led to questions of conflicts of interest as Meralco would naturally be more inclined to buy power from its sister firms regardless of whether it is cheaper than electricity sourced from Napocor IPPs.

Reversing privatization

In the light of high costs in power rates, the reversal of privatization of the entire power sector becomes an increasingly viable answer. This entails the repeal of EPIRA law, reversal of the privatization of Napocor’s generation assets, and government control over the entire power sector – distribution, generation, transmission and supply.

Of course many would question the return of state control over the industry, particularly in light of corruption allegations against Napocor such as its alleged overbilling of customers by some P10 billion ($225.17 million at the June 13 exchange rate of $1:P44.41) and its purchase of overpriced coal for its power plants.

However there remains no substitute for responsible state control in an industry such as the power sector whose natural monopolies will inevitably be exploited by private interests for maximum profit even at the expense of the public. And as a state-run industry, the people must have the right to subject the power sector to scrutiny and demand transparency in its operations. Effective state control remains the best solution to address high power rates – even as it is acknowledged that leaving the power industry to an administration known for allegations of corruption, unaccountability, and subservience to elite interests compromises achieving a pro-people power sector. Posted by Bulatlat

COAL POWER OR RENEWABLE ENERGY?

June 17, 2008

We are stewards of this earth, God’s earth, we are not the absolute owners of this earth. We are caretakers, custodians and stewards of this earth – whether it is here in Antique or there in Panay.

Whatever is your position in society, an ordinary member of civil society or an official of Government or plain user of the environment, you are challenged to leave behind a legacy for this earth, a legacy that the earth has become better or has lessened the earth’s problem, and not a legacy of destruction.

One of our concerns, we are told, is power shortage. There is discussion going on as to the cause of power shortage: is it real shortage or power crisis? Or is it caused by management crisis? Or even worse, is it caused by leadership crisis? Study shows that we have surplus power in Panay until 2010. But there would be gradual shortage of power in 2011.

You here in Antique with the launching of Villasiga and Guianon – San Ramon Mini Hydro Project are leading the way. Congratulations to your Governor who is also the Chairperson of Regional Development Council, the Honorable Sally Z. Perez. You are one step ahead of a future problem. And you are using renewable energy, hydro or water, which is environment and people friendly. It is conceived that by harnessing hydro-renewable energy in this project you will have enough electric power to light the entire province of Antique. Together with the investors, you are impacting a legacy for the province.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by environmentalist, technical groups, scientists, as well as those in the medical profession. We cannot support those who propose the establishment of coal plants anywhere in Panay as we would be party to the commission of the SOCIAL SIN of polluting our environment and putting at risk the health of our communities. We strongly advocate for sustainable solutions – the harnessing of God–given energy from water, wind and sun. We shall support only those who propose renewable energy projects.

Here in Antique water resources are found in the rivers of Sibalom, Valderrama, Tibiao, Culasi and Patnongon. In Panay, God has gifted us with water to harness for electricity in San Joaquin, Igbaras, Lambunao, Maasin, Barotac Viejo, Lemery, Leon, Janiuay and Miag-ao. The big question and challenge is why waste money on importing expensive coals from other countries? Knowing the Filipino propensity for short-cuts and ningas-cogon, the cleanest coal will come out polluting Panay.

Antique is leading the way. We would like the Secretary of DENR, the Honorable Lito Atienza and the Secretary of DOE, the Honorable Angelo Reyes to please reserve Panay or Western Visayas for renewable energy of water, wind and sun for electric power.

The seven bishops of Western Visayas and Romblon in a Pastoral Letter last January 16, 2005 have already expressed their objection to the entry of coal-fired power plants.

We are challenging the leadership in Panay to leave a clean legacy for the province. Clean Coal is a misnomer, a myth. Coal is a pollutant of the environment, its effects in the air and water have been proven to cause asthma, cardiac problems, upper and lower respiratory tract problems. Pollution from dirty power plants kills more people every year than drunk drivers and murderers. The elderly the children and those with respiratory diseases are more severely impacted by this pollution. Coal plants contribute greatly in global warming. Let us not condemn the future of young Filipinos who will blame us without end for having cared less for their future.

Antique is leading the way. Thank you for showing Panay the way.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
June 5, 2008

GREENPEACE INVADES COAL PLANT SITE

June 15, 2008

ILOILO City – Greenpeace activists from different countries, including the crew of Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, and members of Responsible Ilonggos for Sustainable Energy (RISE) established a “climate defenders camp” at the site of a proposed coal-fired plant coal in Brgy. Ingore, La Paz district.

They are demanding the cancellation of the plant and calling on the Senate to fast track the passage of the Renewable Energy Bill, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives, to pave the way for ambitious renewable energy developments in the country and make any notion of new coal redundant.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given strong backing for the construction of the 165-megawatt coal plant. But Greenpeace warned it will contribute to climate change and contaminate local communities.

“A coal plant does not and must not have any business in Iloilo nor the Philippines anymore. We want clean, renewable energy to power the development of the city and our country. The entire Western Visayas should be made a development model for renewable energy,” said Melvin Pursuelo, convener of RISE.

The camp consists of a tower and tents on a seaside area previously used for fish ponds but now allocated for the coal plant.

Banners with messages saying “Quit Coal, Save the Climate” and “Coal Causes Climate Change” are hung around the camp, located a few kilometers away from the center of the city.

Since yesterday, Greenpeace activists staying in the camp have been transmitting messages and images of the protest to a global audience and seek support to stop the proposed coal-fired power plant.

The camp aims to step up public opposition to the proposed coal plant and is meant to be a hub for local communities and groups who are against it.

It also serves as a center for Greenpeace’s public awareness campaign about the ill-effects of coal-fired power plants, climate change and its dangerous impacts, and solutions such as renewable energy.

The construction of the camp, as well as the set up of the Greenpeace-Solar Generation Solar Café at Brgy. Ingore, has caught the attention of the coal-fired power plant proponents Panay Power Corp. and Global Business Power Corp. (a subsidiary of Metrobank), who would like to see the camp dismantled.

Yesterday morning, the police set up a checkpoint, inspecting pro-environment supporters, students, bikers and the Solar Café team.

In Manila on Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Renewable Energy Resources Act, which seeks to promote the development, utilization and commercialization of renewable energy in the Philippines.

The passage of the Act is a significant milestone in a country where community opposition to coal power plants is surging due to concerns about climate change and pollution.

Recently, leading political figures have also voiced strong opposition to coal plants, backed our call for the country to “Quit Coal” and supported clean renewable energy developments.

The governor of Albay province, an area recently hit by disastrous typhoons and mudslides, declared the province a coal-free zone, in addition to Negros Occidental which has already adopted a path towards a 100 percent renewable energy. Meanwhile, Senators Miguel Zubiri and Pia Cayetano expressed support for our “Quit Coal” campaign and a shift to renewable energy.

“The Senate must pass the Renewable Energy Bill. The present situation demands that the government quickly and radically improve energy efficiency, deal with the problems of energy distribution and develop the renewable energy market. We have to do it now while the country sits on 54 percent over-capacity for electricity generation and a huge renewable energy potential. The threat of climate impacts to the entire country should be enough to spur the government to mitigate and adapt, starting with the cancellation of new coal power plant projects,” said Jasper Inventor, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

A new study has revealed that the Philippines has a renewable energy potential of more than 200,000 megawatts from a combination of geothermal, wind, solar, biomass and mini-hydro – more than five times the country’s current energy demand.

Most of the renewable energy potential is yet to be tapped because of the absence of an investment and development framework and delays by the Arroyo government in passing the Renewable Energy Bill.

The Rainbow Warrior is in the Philippines to spearhead the Greenpeace “Quit Coal Tour” in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Greenpeace aims to promote an energy revolution to stop climate change, which includes phasing out the use of climate-damaging coal and rejecting nuclear power, and calls for a massive uptake of renewable energy./PN

Palace defends cash subsidies

June 15, 2008

By Marvin Sy
Sunday, June 15, 2008

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Malacañang said the government’s grant of cash subsidies is a genuine effort of President Arroyo to relieve the poor from rising prices of basic commodities.

Presidential Management Staff director general Cerge Remonde, in an interview over dzRB, said the President wanted to provide concrete assistance to the poor and one of the methods chosen was to provide a one-time P500 cash subsidy to households that use less than 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month.

A total of P2 billion was set aside by the government for the cash subsidy on power.

The President also ordered the distribution of P1,500 cash subsidies to farmers for the purchase of fertilizers.

The government has already extended subsidies for education and health care for children under its Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino program.

“The grant of subsidies is a genuine effort on the part of the President to bring immediate, quick relief to the poorest of the poor,” Remonde said.

Opposition legislators have criticized the program, saying it is illegal since it was not contained in the 2008 General Appropriations Act.

Some senators have also expressed doubt that it would help the poor cope with the continuous rise in the prices of basic goods and commodities.

Remonde said the criticism from the opposition was expected, but reiterated that the objective of the President cannot be questioned.

“We cannot satisfy everybody. The fact that the President is doing this is a very concrete manifestation of the efforts to bring some relief to the people,” he said.

World oil prices have gone up to record levels since the start of the year but there are indications that this could be easing.

Remonde said countries that are dependent on imported oil are affected by the rising oil prices so any drop in the world prices would be a welcome relief.

He emphasized the need to develop alternative sources of energy in order to reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil.

Appeal for patience

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Esperanza Cabral, on the other hand, appealed to the beneficiaries of the P500 cash subsidy on power to be patient in claiming their share.

Long lines have emerged at all local government units as residents, even those who do not fall under the lifeline category, rushed to get their P500.

She also said that the subsidized National Food Authority rice being sold at P18.25 per kilogram through the use of the family access cards has yet to be implemented.

Although the Department of Social Welfare and Development has distributed the family access cards in some LGUs, the P18.25 rice has not yet been pulled out from the public markets by the NFA.

The distribution of the family access cards was intended to ensure that only the poorest families would have access to the P18.25 rice.

Meanwhile, Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. will not call for the immediate scrapping of the value added tax (VAT) on oil to give the government a chance to work on overall and long-term programs to address these problems.

But he warned that the government must be transparent in using public funds especially in the grant of subsidies, saying the people could not tolerate and “afford” corruption at this time.

“All prices are increasing because of the chain effect of the rise in oil prices. The government is like balancing on a tight rope. These developments are new and nobody foresaw them coming. So we really cannot rush the solutions for these because we would have to look at the issues as a whole,” Villar said over radio station dwIZ. – With Aurea Calica(PhilippineStar)

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My Take:

Concrete?  They dare call this as concrete program? Bakit?  Dahil napatunayan na nilang kayang maging isang boto ang P100 sa halalan?  Ibig sabihin naniniwala silang makapagbabago ng buhay ang limandaan?

Bakit hindi nila bigyan ng disenteng trabaho ang mamamayan?  Bakit di nila kayang ibasura ang EPIRA, e samantalang ang nagtahi naman ng EPIRA ay di naman tayo, kundi ang mga hinayupak na mga power companies na iyan.

Makuryente sana kayo at masunog para di na kayo maging letsong baboy!  Sunog na baboy, pwede pa! Bwisit!

Zayco to hasten geothermal exploration

June 14, 2008

NEGROS Occidental Governor Isidro Zayco said Thursday he plans to fast track the geothermal project of the Philippine National Oil Corporation – Energy Development Corporation (PNOC-EDC) inside the Mt. Kanlaon buffer zone.

He however said, he has yet to receive the memorandum of agreement (MOA) from the Provincial Board on the proposed geothermal exploration.

The MOA, to be signed by Zayco on behalf of the province, represents the endorsement for the oil corporation to enter the buffer zone and drill an additional well.

The well is expected to emit an equivalent 49-megawatt of electricity.

The said project is vehemently opposed by the local church and environmentalists.

Zayco however said, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes is fully supportive of the initiative. “Secretary Reyes assured me that he will take full responsibility of whatever PNOC-EDC will do inside the buffer zone,” he said.

“He said, whatever PNOC-EDC will not comply, my office will take responsibility as this is really the mandate of DOE in the first place,” Zayco quoted Reyes as saying.

Reyes said in his speech as guest of honor and speaker in the province’s Independence Day celebration said, the “other” kind of independence the Philippines should have, is the independence in power.”

Reyes urged Negrenses to answer the challenge of going into alternative energy which is clean, efficient and sustainable, adding that “solar, wind, ocean, hydro, geothermal and biomass are the energy of the future that the Negrenses must tap to switch from a culture of extravagance of waste to efficiency.” (Gil Alfredo Severino)

House approves renewable energy bill

June 13, 2008

By Sammy Martin, Reporter

IT took almost two decades for lawmakers to pass on third and final reading a measure to develop renewable energy sources for the country’s energy needs, which is expected to generate some $1.2 billion in energy savings and economic benefits for Filipinos in the next 10 years.

The President’s son, Rep. Mikey Arroyo of Pampanga, and Rep. Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur successfully mustered the numbers to have House Bill 4193, otherwise known as Development, Utilization and Commercialization of Renewable Energy Resources of 2008, to be passed on third and final reading. HB 4193 was supported by administration and minority lawmakers.

The measure was first filed during the 8th Congress when Corazon Aquino was president.

No less than 16 renewable energy measures and resolutions were filed and referred to the Committee on Energy, of which 14 were House bills. The committee began hearings on these last November, and reported out the final measure on May 28.

Speaker Prospero Nograles expressed hope the Senate would swiftly pass its counterpart measure. If the renewable energy bill will be signed into a law, it will accelerate the development of renewable energy sources already found in the country like biomass, solar, wind, hydro, ocean energy or wave power, and geothermal.

Besides providing fiscal and financial incentives to encourage investors to go into renewable energy development, the measure also directs the Department of Energy, the National Power Corp. and other government agencies to develop and institute a framework for propagating renewable energy, and to seamlessly interconnect these energy sources into the national power grid.

“I humbly ask for your support in approving the renewable energy resources bill—the bill that will reduce our dependence on imported petroleum products,” said Representative Arroyo in his sponsorship speech.

Currently, the country relies on imported fuels like crude oil derivatives and coal for 48 percent of its power needs. The remaining 52 percent are sourced from indigenous sources like local crude oil, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy.(ManilaTimes)

NPA raids coal mine in Negros Occidental

June 11, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 10:36pm (Mla time) 06/09/2008

BACOLOD CITY – The military alleged on Sunday that the New People’s Army raided a coal mine in Calatrava town, Negros Occidental and burned its equipment after its owners allegedly failed to pay revolutionary taxes.

Maj. Nathaniel Villasor, 303rd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations chief, placed at P150,000 the damage to the equipment of a coal mine owned by former board member Fernando Leonor and Melvin Villamero.

Villasor said the raid on the coal mine was done simultaneously with the burning of three Tanduay Distillery Inc. delivery trucks at the Barcelona Port in Barangay Old Poblacion, Escalante City, on June 4.
The rebels, allegedly led by a certain Odot Danoso, took handheld radios and cellular phones of the mineworkers, who were not harmed, the military said.

Calatrava police chief Inspector Danilo Zuniega said on Sunday that the work at the mine site has been suspended.

The mine workers expressed their dismay at being temporarily displaced from work at the time classes were about to open, Zuniega said.
The military also advised the Calatrava police investigators not to proceed to the mining site as the 15th Infantry Battalion soldiers were still pursuing the suspects, Zuniega said.

Police placed the damages on the Tanduay delivery trucks and cargo allegedly burned by suspected rebels at the port of Escalante at P6 million.

Villasor said the series of incidents, including the liquidation of a former civilian volunteer organization and the attack on an Army detachment in Guihulngan, showed desperation on the part of the NPA rebels, after they lost their guerrilla bases in central Negros to the 11th Infantry Battalion.

Senior Supt. Rosendo Franco, provincial police director, urged the community to report the presence of strangers in their place to prevent more atrocities that would be committed by insurgents.

Capt. Lowen Gil Marquez, chief of the AFP Civil Relations Group in Western Visayas, said the incident at the port of Escalante could have been prevented if the liquor firm personnel had informed the military of the extortion letters they have received from the CPP-NPA.

Lt. Gen. Pedro Ike Insierto, AFP Central Command chief, who recently visited the 303rd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Barangay Minoyan, Murcia town, has ordered the military to pursue the suspects behind the simultaneous raids and destruction of properties in northern Negros.

Meanwhile, CPP spokesperson Gregorio Ka Roger Rosal hailed the NPA for its string of recent victories against government forces.

“With the government forces suffering more losses, the more they try to pursue their military offensives against the revolutionary forces, it is they and not the revolutionary forces who will be significantly weakened by the target end of their current counterinsurgency operational plan Bantay Laya II,” Rosal said in a statement released Sunday by the CPP’s Information Bureau, a copy of which was furnished the Inquirer.

Ka Roger said the most recent communist offensive against government forces was a lightning attack Saturday afternoon against a detachment of the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion in south Mindanao’s Compostela Valley.

Rosal said the guerrillas quickly overpowered government militiamen manning the detachment and torched it down before leaving with the paramilitary forces’ 14 M1 Garand rifles.

The CPP spokesman also reported that NPA rebels also attacked another Army detachment in Sallapadan, Abra in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Citing initial reports, Rosal claimed that five government soldiers were wounded in the firefight, including the detachment commander.
“The NPA also burned down the Army detachment after overrunning it,” he said.

With reports from Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

Catanduanes governor opposes mini-hydro

June 11, 2008

VIRAC, Catanduanes — The provincial governor here who is supposed to lead in undertaking an environment-friendly project to minimize, if not combat, global warming turns out to be its strongest oppositor.

Gov. Joseph Cua of Catanduanes reportedly has expressed his opposition to the proposed construction of a mini-hydro power plant here despite favorable endorsement by Bishop Manolo A. De los Santos of the Diocese of Virac, the League of the Municipalities of the Philippines-Catanduanes chapter, Bicolano Senators Joker Arroyo and Gregorio Honasan, and of the National Power Corporation.

Sources claimed the project runs counter to the business interest of the governor.

The min-hydro power plant is an electric power generating plant that utilizes the kinetic energy of falling or running water (run-off river hydro plants) and turn the turbine generator to produce electricity. The project hopes to generate no less than 101 KW or more than 10,000 KW of renewable and clean energy.

Elizaldy ‘Zaldy’ Co, president of the Sunwest Water and Power Co. Inc., (SUWECO) accused the governor of being the real ‘inconvenient truth’ because the governor is involved in diesel fuel business.

Co expressed disgust upon learning that Gov. Cua is blocking the mini-hydro power project which could have otherwise generated employment, provide clean energy and resolve power outages.

Co said that Cua monopolized the diesel-fed fuel business in the island Catanduanes, and worst, sell it at 30 percent higher compared to prices in mainland Bicol.

“There was a businessman who put up the Petron gasoline station and spent almost P2 million but he (Gov. Cua) opposed it too because it would affect his diesel business. The issue here is not only moral but ‘vested interest’ considering that he was elected as public servant. If he allows our project, the government will save P200 million a year, aside from providing clean energy,added employment and income,” Co told Bicol Mail.

Aside from gasoline business, Cua is also engaged in rice trading, owner of RSL buses plying from Catanduanes-Manila vice versa, and sea crafts operating the Catanduanes-Tabaco sea lane.

Co is constructing the Solong mini-hydro projects with capacity of 2.1 MW in San Miguel town, Hitoma 01 with 1.5 MW and Hitoma 02 with 1.35 MC capacity all in Obi, Caramoran town, Gigmoto mini-hydro power plant with 0.55 capacity in Gigmoto town and Kapipian mini-hydro project with 2.8 MW capacity in Solong,Catanduanes with the total of 8.3 MW capacity.

Apart from Catanduanes mini-hydro projects, Co is currently constructing several mini-hydro projects in the country such as the Villasiga Mini-hydro project in Igsoro, Bugasong Antique, Guiamon San Ramon Mini-hydro project in Laua-an, Antique, Dalanas Mini-Hydro-project in Barbasa, Antique, Tiniano Mini-Hydro project in Tibiao, Antique with 14.1MW total capacity. All these projects were supported by Bishop Lagdameo of the Diocese of Jaro to address the acute power shortage in Panay island, especifically in Iloilo.

In Albay province the on-going mini-hydro power plants are the Misibis Multi-Purpose Reservoir in Cagraray Island, Bacacay town, Cumagingking and Vera Falls mini-hydro projects in Malinao town.

The mini-hydro projects in this island province is programmed to be operational by 2010 with a total of 5,375 KW capacity and additional 2,600 kW capacity by 2013 to stabilize and energize numerous barangays here.

Unfortunately, the renewable energy project of SUWECO was blocked by Govv.r Cua before the Energy Regulatory Commission last month.

Cua cited the following grounds in his opposition paper submitted May 26,2008 : the applicant failed to submit the documents prescribed by law; there is no competitive selection process or bidding undertaken by FICELCO in the selection of SUWECO as new power producer; the selling price of electricity offered by the firm is grossly overpriced and is against the basis established by law; SUWECO has no technical and financial capacity to undertake the project; the cooperation period stated in the Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) is violative of the law; and SUWECO did not conduct a feasibility study to justify the assumptions made in the ESA.

As if on cue, Arvin T. Amata, provincial legal officer of Catanduanes, also asked the ERC to invalidate and scrap immediately the instant application for approval of the ESA submitted by SUWECO and FICELCO for lack of merit.

SUWECO entered into ESA with the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative Inc. (FICELCO) whereby the latter would pay for all the electricity produced by the proposed mini-hydro electric plants at a discounted rate of 4 percent less than the subsidized and approved generation rate (SAGR) for Catanduanes for a period of 30 years from commercial operation, Co said.

On May 7, 2008, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Catanduanes led by Vice Governor Alfredo M. Aquino granted Gov. Cua an authority to represent the provincial government in any legal action relative to the electricity supply agreement entered into by FICELCO and SUWECO.

The provincial board council stated in their authorization given to Cua to oppose the said agreement due to following grounds; FICELCO has an existing ESA with several power providers which to date still remains to be in effect not having been declared invalid or rescinded by any competent authority in an appropriate proceedings, several provisions of ESA between FICELCO and SUWECO are found to be detrimental to FICELCO and its consumers.

The council added that the provincial government, pursuant to its mandate under section 16 of the RA 7160 to promote the general welfare of the people of Catanduanes, is duty bound to do and enforce any legal action including opposing the application for approval of the ESA between Ficelco and SUWECO which is pending before the ERC.

Former Senator Francisco Tatad, a native of Catanduanes, opined that Cua and his allies’ move was disadvantageous to the people while it was deemed to protect the governor’s business interest.

Tatad had Rodolfo Albano, Jr., Chairman of the Energy Regulatory Board to help facilitate the speedy completion and immediate operation of the mini-hydro projects being undertaken by SUWECO in several municipalities of the island province in order to liberate their poor constituents from the scourge of unstable power supply and inordinately high prices provided by highly polluting bunker-fed sources.

“I am made to understand, however that certain provincial politicians who are involved in the sale and distribution of bunker fuel, are moving to block the projects for their own reasons,” Tatad said in his letter to Albano.

He said that as former chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and principal sponsor of the Electric Power Crisis Act in the Senate, it was his dream then to see the province of Catanduanes and other small islands in the country which are cut off from the national power grid, become self-sufficient in energy, through their exploitation of indigenous renewable energy sources like water, sun and wind.(BicolMail)


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