Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Aboitiz Power on shutdown to improve supply in VisMin

By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 24, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – A power plant of Aboitiz Power Corp. in Mindanao and of Energy Development Corp. (EDC) in Visayas went on maintenance shutdown to improve their reliability to supply power to the Visayas and Mindanao grids.
AboitizPower disclosed yesterday Unit 1 of the 2x150-megawatt (MW) Davao coal-fired power plant of its subsidiary Therma South Inc. (TSI) started its scheduled shutdown yesterday for preventive maintenance activities. 
“This maintenance activity is necessary to review Unit 1 and to implement some corrective measures as needed which should be similar in nature to the coverage of work done in the recently planned outage of Unit 2 from June 18 to July 13,” TSI president and COO Sebastian Lacson said.
The maintenance activity is estimated to last until Sept. 7.
“We are confident that after this outage, TSI should be better equipped to reliably meet the needs of our customers. As always, we will try our best to keep the duration of this interruption to a minimum,” Lacson said.
Originally scheduled to start Aug. 6, AboitizPower said the Unit 1 maintenance schedule was moved to Aug. 22 to better adjust to the grid situation.
TSI is coordinating with electric cooperatives and distribution utilities customers in Mindanao in order to implement measures to mitigate the impact of the maintenance activity.
In another disclosure, EDC said its 77-MW Malitbog Unit 2 Power Plant in Leyte tripped last Aug. 17 after it “experienced a flashover inside the high voltage terminal box.”
The plant tripping did not cause any supply shortfall in Visayas since the facility was offline and was in the process of testing and commissioning of its Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR) under the supervision of ABB, the manufacturer of the AVR, as part of a 30 day scheduled maintenance outage.
“The incident did not have any impact on the grid as Malitbog Unit 2 was not synchronized to the grid at that time, and no injuries were sustained by any of the personnel involved,” it said.
Together with ABB and other consultants and contractors, EDC said it is currently conducting an assessment of the extent of the repairs needed and a full review to determine all contributing factors that led to the plant incident to ensure appropriate measures are taken to enable the safe and reliable operation of the unit.           

Villar: Mining should shift from export to processing

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MANILA, Philippines -- The development of domestic mineral processing plants should be the government's long-term goal since these will generate more employment and significantly improve the mining industry’s contribution to the economy,  Sen. Cynthia Villar said.

"That should be the vision in the future because, right now, we are just exporting raw materials but as the country develops, we should export the processed already. [We can't do that] now because the industry is not that developed but it is something that we can look forward to in the future,” Villar said on the sidelines of the opening day of the Mining Philippines Conference 2016.

The plan is similar to that of the Indonesian government's which requires companies to build domestic processing facilities and has revised regulations on mineral ore export to lean towards banning it altogether.

"If we are able to build stronger mining companies then their next sphere of action would be to build processing plants. They have to be stronger first, then that would follow,” Villar said.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said the establishment of processing plants cannot be done in a short period of time as these need economic feasibility studies that would benefit both investors and the government.

"The industry would need a huge capital for that, billions of dollars, and we have to look at the best available technology. It’s a longer-term plan," COMP executive vice president Nelia Halcon said.

Although Villar doubts that the plan would materialize in the current administration, the chamber is upbeat that the plan would at least be included in Duterte's six-year development program as he shift gears towards industrialization.

"The president has been saying that we have to industrialize. In his term of six years, I think that would all be allotted for planning and the next administration would be on the execution," Halcon said.

Despite the costly plan of putting up processing plants, Halcon noted that investors would continue to flock to the Philippines as long as the government would provide incentive packages such as tax exemptions on environmentally-safe equipment.

Unlike in Indonesia, the chamber emphasized that it should not be mandatory, but merely an encouragement for companies to increase their investments and income.

"I don’t think you should impose just like what Indonesia did because not everyone was able to follow. It’s hard for Filipinos to be imposed on, it’s better if we just encourage and direct them that this is what the country needs and this is where we are heading. And that way, I think Filipinos, taipans and industrialists will invest in the country," Halcon said. 

Striking a balance

Amid the administration’s ongoing clampdown on allegedly irresponsible mining operations, Villar -- chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources -- emphasized that the mining industry generates employment and helps the government's poverty reduction measures.

"The government should do a balancing act—encourage investors by putting in place the right business environment and at the same time be vigilant against abuses and excesses, especially negative impact, if any, on the environment," Villar said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he will support responsible mining that will uphold environmental and safety standards, strictly implement the mining law and considers limiting the issuance of government permits to mining companies.

Last month, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the audit of all mining companies to ensure their compliance with environmental standards. This has resulted in the suspension of around 10 firms in the last 50 days.

Furthermore, Villar said mining projects that prioritize local suppliers and contractors should be given priority since this can spell the difference in inducing growth both upstream and downstream industries such as agriculture and agro-forestry, which can thrive under responsible mining operations.

Although accounting for less than one percent of the country’s total employment, Villar said mining's contribution should not be overlooked as it enhances local services such as retail trade, financial services, agriculture, manufacturing and others that are indirect beneficiaries of mineral resource development.

The value of mineral resources in the Philippines is over $1 trillion and the country is utilizing less than one percent of its mineral wealth.

Based on the Philippine Development Plan, of the country’s nine million hectares endowed with high mineral potential, only 2.7 percent is covered by mining permits while only 0.32 percent is in the development or operating stage.

"I was surprised that with so little, you are being blamed for environmental degradation. You [big companies] and the illegal miners should be differentiated so that you would not be blamed," she added.

Villar reiterated that any talk of mining will bring about concern for the environment as mining begins and ends with nature and should not be done to the detriment of the country’s natural resources.

"While the industry’s growth and development may foster equitable distribution of the country’s natural wealth to the Filipinos, it can never justify environmental destruction, especially when unrestrainedly done. We should continue to draw the line as it has been clearly demarcated even before by existing policies, rules and regulations," she said.

Despite being mineral-rich, the senator said the country should still strive to be competitive in terms of taxes to be attractive to investors and that mining taxation should be studied thoroughly.

"There have also been calls to revisit some issues relating to provisions of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. What is important is that all sectors and stakeholders are consulted and that the decision will ultimately be beneficial to the country," she added.

The senator also urged mining stakeholders to come to Congress and educate them on matters regarding the industry.

"Legislators do not pretend that they know everything, you have to reach us in order to be able to pass meaningful legislation that will both benefit the industry and our country," Villar said.

Mining to stay but under tighter rules

By: Ronnel W. Domingo 12:28 AM August 24th, 2016

Mining is bound to carry on in the Philippines as many companies, especially those that are publicly listed, have no choice but to follow regulations and industry standards, according to Sen. Cynthia Villar.

Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, Tuesday said the only thing that made mining questionable was the environmental impact.

“I don’t think companies don’t take care of their environment, but maybe there is confusion because there are many illegal mines in the country,” she said in an interview.

“We should draw the difference, and this should show in the review of the mines,” she added.

Villar was also keynote speaker in the opening ceremony of the annual Mining Philippine conference organized by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP).

She told the forum that striking a sustainable balance between economic gains and environmental protection was crucial—thus, the emphasis on mining companies’ compliance with strict standards.

“What is important is that all sectors and stakeholders are consulted and that the decision will ultimately be beneficial to the country,” she said.

“The government, as in most instances, should of course do a balancing act—encourage investors by putting in place the right business environment and, at the same time, be vigilant against abuses,” she added.

Quoting an earlier pronouncement of President Duterte, Villar said mining must be done right. “If you can’t do it right, get out,” she told the COMP, the members of which are large-scale operators.

Even then, she expressed surprise that with “so little” evidence, big mining firms were being blamed for environmental degradation.

“You and the illegal miners should be differentiated so that you would not be blamed,” Villar said.

COMP president Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez said the chamber’s members were committed to work with the Duterte administration in raising the standards for all operating large-scale metallic mines.

“We view the President’s appointment of a trusted friend and ally as DENR undersecretary with charge over the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau as a recognition of the mining industry’s tremendous impacts and its potential to contribute greatly to the country’s economy,” Romualdez said.

He was referring to Mario Luis Jacinto, who worked for many years at the Davao City Hall with Mr. Duterte as mayor, and also with difference mining companies as consultant.

The President earlier described mining, along with logging activities, as an industry that was past its time.

“We in the COMP remain optimistic that will be able to overcome,” Romualdez said. “We are kept afloat by our firm belief that mining will one day achieve its full potential to contribute in a much bigger way to our nation’s socioeconomic growth.”

Meralco seeks approval to install more smart meters

By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 24, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) is seeking regulatory approval for an additional 235,000 smart meters as it aggressively expands its prepaid retail electricity service (PRES).
The company has filed an application with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to roll out 235,000 smart meters for regulatory year 2017 or from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, Meralco SVP and head for customer retail services and corporate communications Alfredo Panlilio said.
“We have (one) pending now for 235,000 meters for regulatory year 2017… depending on how we can also bring down cost of meters, we’ll ramp it up accordingly,” he said.
The recent filing came after the ERC approved the additional 100,000 prepaid meters sought by Meralco for regulatory year 2016, which covers the July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.
Panlilio said the application would cover a mix of prepaid and postpaid smart meters, but more of prepaid meters since the product is already developed.
In its initial rollout, Meralco was cleared by the ERC for 40,000 prepaid meters.
In the same event, Meralco president Oscar Reyes said this is part of the power distributor’s automation of its network.
“We’re fortunate to get the support of ERC to provide us the necessary approvals for capital expenditures for infrastructure. We’re nearing 40,000 prepaid meters and we have approval now for the next 100,000 and those will be rolled out and deployed. So there will be additional waves of smart meters, prepaid and postpaid,” Reyes said.
Currently, Meralco’s smart grid journey is still on the infancy stage as the power distributor is targeting to have half of its total customers shift to smart meters in the next eight years, Panlilio said.
“We’re hoping that by 2024, at least half of the market is on smart meters,” he said.
So far, Meralco has installed around 32,000 prepaid meters within its franchise.
Panlilio said the first 40,000 prepaid meter roll out would be hit by September of October. This means 0.67 percent of the projected six million Meralco customers will be on smart meters.
“My dream on smart grid is everybody (to be) on smart meters. But obviously, we have to work with ERC in terms of approvals… Of course, our role is to bring down the costs (of meters) even further,” he said.