Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) energy committee chairman Jose Alejandro recently told his members they will push for the drawing up of an industry roadmap for the power sector this year.
By this time, industry roadmaps solicited by the Department of Trade and Industry from other industries must be finished and are now being consolidated into the country’s comprehensive industrialization strategy.
Foremost in the energy industry roadmap should be a clear way by which this country will enjoy ample supply of electricity over the long term at less expensive rates. In plain English, we must no longer have brownouts. Electric power will also be cheaper.
The committee knows only too well that Mindanao suffers from daily brownouts and that there is no power reserve to play around with in Luzon. If a 600-megawatt power plant conks out, Luzon will suffer brownouts. The Philippines already has the seventh highest electric rates in the world and has regressed to the ranks of the poorest countries of Africa as one of the least competitive economies on earth.
The PCCI committee has been insisting for years that a power generation program for the country must be in place and the agency in charge for its actualization be designated. Everybody has been praising the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, the law that privatized most, if not all, of the power assets of the notorious National Power Corp.
What lawmakers overlooked was that when they sought to dismantle the gargantuan public company, they inadvertently stripped the Department of Energy (DOE) off its power to be the prime mover in the sector. Much of its powers were transferred to regulator, Energy Regulatory Commission. Left hanging was the development work.
The same mistake of leaving a critical sector without a strong overseer happened during the Cory administration. The result was up to 12 hours of power outages at the height of the crisis, which erased much of the economic gains under that administration.
When he was at the helm of the DOE, the late Angelo Reyes admitted he no longer had the power to tell investors to build power plants. The ball, he said then, was in the hands of the private sector.
The result was that no new power plants were built in Luzon and Mindanao since the EPIRA law was passed in 2001 – the very reason brownouts are a daily fare in Mindanao today. Luzon is teetering in that direction. Visayas has had better luck: some daring investors built power generators without any prodding from government.
Drawing up an energy industry roadmap is the easy part; implementation is another story altogether.