Thursday, February 16, 2017

Basic Energy sells 9% stake to Thai company

By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 16, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Basic Energy Corp. will sell unissued shares to Thailand-based Vintage Engineering Public Co. Ltd. (VTE) in line with their joint development of renewable energy (RE) projects here and abroad.
In a disclosure yesterday, Basic said it has entered into a subscription agreement with VTE, a publicly-listed company in Thailand, “for a strategic partnership to pursue the exploration, development and production of renewable energy resources, in the Philippines and abroad.”
Under the deal, VTE will subscribe to aggregate 435,658,699 shares out of the unissued capital stock of the company.
Both companies initially signed a memorandum of agreement in October 2016 for a strategic partnership wherein VTE’s subscription is equivalent to nine percent of Basic Energy’s outstanding capital stock.
Issuance will be done in tranches, pursuant to and subject to the terms and conditions stipulated in the agreement, the local firm said.
Both parties still have to determine the price of the transaction, Basic Energy senior vice president and general manager Anthony Cuaycong said in a text message yesterday.
“The price is yet to be determined and will be finalized upon the signing of the subscription agreement. There will be two or three tranches,” he said.
Also under the deal, both parties agreed VTE has the right to invest in the Mabini geothermal project and other projects.
“VTE is interested in the gamut of Basic’s projects. Likewise, Basic is in discussion with VTE regarding the latter’s own projects,” Cuaycong said.
The Thai firm may also increase its interest in the company in the future, “both subject to terms and conditions which shall be mutually agreed upon by the parties in the future,” Basic said.
Originally in the business of construction and engineering, VTE has diversified its operations as an engineering, procurement and construction contractor, an operations and management operator.
It also owns a coal mine and a raw materials supply business, and aims to become a significant energy player in Asia. So far, It has lined up several energy projects in Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar and the Philippines.
Basic Energy, on the other hand, has business interests in various fields of renewable energy and alternative fuels, as well as oil and gas exploration and development.
Currently, the company has five geothermal service contracts, namely the Mabini Geothermal Service Contract (SC) in Batangas, East Mankayan Geothermal Prospect in Ifugao, Mt. Mariveles Geothermal Project in Bataan, Mt. Iriga Geothermal Project in Albay and West Bulusan Geothermal Prospect in Sorsogon.
Among its projects in the pipeline, the Batangas project is the most advanced, with the drilling of an exploratory well currently under way. Basic partnered with Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp. to develop the resource.
The company is also eyeing to develop two to three RE projects in the near term, particularly solar, for revenue stream while developing geothermal prospects, which has a long gestation period.

‘Kalikasan’ environmental protection group backs DENR, calls for new mining policy

Published February 16, 2017, 12:10 AM By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Following the government’s crackdown on mining activities, environment advocates appealed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) yesterday to take the next important step and support calls for a new mining policy.
“(DENR) Secretary (Gina) Lopez must work with Congress to push for House Bill 2715, the People’s Mining Bill, to replace the Mining Act of 1995 that is the root of these problems,” Kalikasan National Coordinator Clemente Bautista said.
“A new progressive mining policy will strengthen the mandate of the current thrust to effectively regulate mining and balance environmental protection, national development, and people’s rights,” he said.
Bautista lauded the DENR’s move to cancel 75 mining agreements located inside watershed areas.
“By removing the threats of forest denudation, water pollution, marine degradation, and biodiversity loss posed by impacts of large-scale mining, we are assured our agriculture and fisheries productivity can be better developed,” he said. “Maintaining healthy watersheds in these areas will guarantee that our population will have adequate, clean, and safe water supply for irrigation and domestic water needs.”
Two weeks after releasing the results of the DENR mining audit, Lopez announced last Tuesday the cancellation of a total of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) in watersheds all over the country.
According to DENR, there are 37 MPSAs in Mindanao, 11 in Visayas, and 27 in Luzon that will be cancelled.
“If we can maintain our remaining forests intact and our rivers free of siltation from mining operations, there is lesser likelihood of flashfloods and landslides during heavy rainfall and typhoons,” Bautista said.
“The crackdown of DENR Secretary Lopez against erring large-scale mines and the junking of MPSAs in the watershed areas are excellent actions for environmental protection,” he added.
The group urged other government offices to work with the DENR to cushion the immediate impacts of the mining crackdown to its workers by providing aid and alternative livelihood.
“The P2-billion aid announced by President Rodrigo Duterte for displaced mine workers can be coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Agencies for rural development such as the Department of Agriculture and Department of Agrarian Reform can help mining communities by distributing land and support services to the displaced mining communities,” he said.

Collateral damage
Meanwhile, a worker at the nickel mine operated by Eramen Minerals, Inc., near Sta. Cruz, Zambales, that was initially suspended in July for environmental offenses, and later ordered to shut for good, was found dead and hanging in his kitchen. A laptop charger cable was tied around his neck.
His brother had kept on telling Winston Ordonez that the mine would reopen and he would be hired again: but when Ordonez didn’t get a call from the mining firm, he was later found hanging.
“He became depressed. He said his life was worthless,” his widow, Leni Modelo, told Reuters from their home where she is now raising their seven-year-old boy on her own. “He tried to find work in city hall but there was none.”
The Philippines is the world’s top nickel ore supplier and China’s huge demand for the raw material that makes stainless steel meant there was a captive market for the four big mines in the Sta. Cruz area.
But the suspension and closure of the mines by Lopez has meant thousands of jobs have disappeared in Sta. Cruz. A crusader for the environment, Lopez has ordered the shutdown of 23 of the country’s 41 operating mines. She stepped up her crackdown on Tuesday, cancelling almost a third of the country’s contracts for undeveloped mines.
The mining sector employed 219,000 people as of end-September last year, according to government data. But the planned closures and the suspension of another five mines will affect about 1.2 million people, including families and businesses that rely on mining for a livelihood, according to Artemio Disini, head of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
At Eramen’s mine, company president Enrique Fernandez said the headcount had dropped to 150 from more than 1,000 previously and more workers could go by the end of this month.
In a nearby mine run by Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. (ZDMC), owned by property-to-power firm DMCI Holdings, Inc., the number of workers has fallen to under 50 from a peak of 1,200, said Hendrik Martin, manager at ZDMC.
Ronald Esquiray, 39, was among those laid off. He now weaves bamboo strips to make walls for small huts, which pays half of what he used to earn in a day.
Many who lost their jobs tried their luck in Manila, Esquiray said, including his 20-year-old son who found work at a construction project.

Residents hit mines
Many  residents of Sta. Cruz won’t miss the mining. They say it denuded mountains, leading to heavy flooding in valley villages. Locals also blame the mines for the siltation of farmlands and rivers, and the destruction of the main road that heavy trucks used to rumble along carrying ore to the port.
Martin from ZDMC said mining is demonized so routinely in sermons at his local church that he has stopped attending the weekly service.
When it rains heavily here, thick mud rolls down from mine sites in the mountains, contaminating farmlands and streams below with nickel laterite ore.
Mining companies scrape the laterite off planting areas, but farmers and residents say it is only pushed to the side, submerging parts of houses. And the crop yield is far smaller than before, forcing farmers to use more fertilizer.
Rice farmer Eduardo Morano lost money on his last crop as the harvest from his one-hectare plot more than halved. “I had to sell one of my animals to pay off debt. Then I had to take a new loan to buy more fertilizer,” he said.
The siltation has spread to rivers, said Edgardo Obra, vice chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz, pointing to one that he says had almost dried up because of the silt. “Kids used to dive here.”
Fishermen have to go farther into sea due to the sediment build-up closer to land, he said, adding that only a few town officials benefit from the funds allocated by mining companies to help communities around them.
“I feel like we were fooled,” said Obra, a Baptist pastor. As a former village official, he approved mining in the area but was dismayed two years later by the environmental damage. (With a report from Reuters)

23 NGCP towers in Ilocos Sur up by July

By Philippines News Agency -

LAOAG CITY—At least 23 transmission lines of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) are expected to be completed by July, this year.
Due to scouring of the Santa Maria River during the onslaught of Typhoon Ineng that toppled NGCP transmission lines, the operator of the country’s electricity superhighway opted to reroute a portion of the transmission line in Santa Maria and Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.
In a briefing held at the Java Hotel on Wednesday, Engr. Renato Julian of the Transmission Planning of NGCP said constructing the 230 kilovolt line double-circuit steel towers of San Esteban to Laoag took them a period of 15 years to establish the transmission backbone project, which aims to transmit power generated by the wind and solar farms in Ilocos Norte and provide a better reliability of the transmission network.
In December 2015, both the 106 circuit kilometer s (ckm) of San Esteban and 112-ckm Laoag side had been energized. To protect the by-pass lines and adjacent structures, including the San Esteban-Bantay-Laoag 115-kV line, due to scouring of the riverbank, NGCP also constructed a riverbank revetment.
The new towers, according to NGCP, were also upgraded to withstand the country’s strongest typhoon signal No. 5.
In Northern Luzon Engr. Frank Maala of NGCP projects in Luzon also reported another 230-kV transmission backbone is being rolled out in the next three years as a reinforcement and to accommodate bulk-generation additions of more wind farms to be constructed here. For 2017, the loop is expected to be connected from Santiago, Isabela, to Tuguegarao City in Cagayan and from Tuguegarao to Lallo, Cagayan, by 2018.
Maala added there is also an on-going development of another looping of the 500 and 230kV line connecting Laoag-Bangui to Sanchez Mira and then to Pudtol, Apayao from Lallo, Cagayan to be completed by 2015.
Attended by representatives of the local government units, electric cooperatives of Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte and the Director for Luzon of the Department of Energy, a power forum was organized by the NGCP in Laoag City on February 15 to provide updates on its projects particularly concerning Northern Luzon and the San Esteban-Laoag kV line.