Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Decision on lifting of open-pit mine ban up

MICC meet today
Published October 23, 2017, 10:01 PM By Madelaine B. Miraflor and Chino S. Leyco

Even if the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is already set to release today (Tuesday) the results of the study seeking to prove or counter the legality of open-pit mine ban in the country, it may still take awhile before Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu could actually decide whether he will lift it or not.
Cimatu, in an interview yesterday, said the MICC may already decide today whether or not it will lift the ban on open-pit mine, which was put in place seven months ago or just a few weeks before the powerful Commission on Appointments rejected the appointment of Regina Paz Lopez as the country’s environment secretary.
According to him, it will be the technical working group (TWG) of the MICC, which he co-chairs with
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez  III, that will present today the particular study on the issue.
Ahead of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) meeting today,  Dominguez said yesterday that there is no law banning open-pit mines.
“I have to see what the recommendation is from the TWG and we’ll certainly consider their ideas. You know in the first place, people don’t know that open pit mining is not against the law,” Dominguez told reporters in a recent interview.
But Dominguez pointed out that what is really important is how the miners follow their operations with the rehabilitation of the site. “People have to follow the law on the rehabilitation, that is why the law requires certain amount of money to be set aside for the rehabilitation,” Dominguez said. “I’m not saying [the ban] there is no legal basis, but it is not prohibited.”
When asked about the chances that Lopez’s order be reversed, Dominguez responded “we will see what the TWG has to say.”
Earlier, Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin said the ban on open-pit mine was up for review this week after its proponents, led by Lopez, presented their case before TWG of the MICC.
Agabin said the MICC will convene to discuss whether the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) controversial order should be kept or not.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, that will present today the study on this particular issue.
This was confirmed by Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin in a separate interview.
But when asked if the result favors the lifting of the said ban, Bayani only said he is yet to find out the “inclination of the body” but he expects “a healthy discussion during the meeting.”
Cimatu, on the other hand, said he will “inhibit” from attending the meeting and implied that even if the result is already out and say the TWG will recommend the ban to be lifted, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will not instantly make a decision on it.
“The decision is either a yes or no and second is how to implement it. [Once we get the results from the MICC] we will be making study especially on the conditions and provisions, because it can’t be imposed just like that,” Cimatu told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing 12th Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS-COP12) in Pasay.
“The President directed me [to look into open-pit mining oeprations in the country]. He’s very emphatic on the effect of the open pit mining and the companies must talk to the communities to find out and help them,” he added.
Agabin already said before that at the end of the day, it will still be up to Cimatu whether to lift the ban or not.
To recall, it was Cimatu himself who has brought the issues surrounding the administrative order banning companies to extract minerals through the open pit method to the MICC table.
This, even if he has the power to abolish the order himself since it was imposed by his predecessor Lopez.

DOE to lodge revised RCOA Circulars before

Published By Myrna M. Velasco

Two new circulars of the Department of Energy (DOE) will be lodged before the Supreme Court to seek the lifting of the temporary restraining order (TRO) against the retail competition and open access (RCOA) policy in the restructured electricity sector.
The two revised rules will effectively remove the RCOA provisions questioned before the high court – primarily its mandatory enforcement; the cost premium; and the act of dislodging the local retail electricity suppliers (L-RES) of the distribution utilities.
“We will include it in our petition before the Supreme Court – that this is the new policy direction that this administration is taking,” Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella told reporters over the weekend.
He emphasized that “if the Court would appreciate it, these could already remove the challenged provisions of the RCOA.”
One of the new Circulars will effectively set out ‘voluntary switching’ of qualified contestable customers to RES suppliers from the incumbent utilities serving them. Contestable customers are those segments of end-users that can already exercise their “freedom of choice” in underwriting contracts with their preferred electricity suppliers.
In the new rules, the DoE has provided leeway for the RCOA threshold to be brought down to 750 kilowatts and then to aggregation level of 500kW starting next year.
Presently, retail competition in the electricity market is maintained at 1.0-megawatt level and done on a “voluntary basis” with contestable customers following the SC’s restraining order in February this year.
Another provision in the RCOA and Competitive Retail Electricity Market (CREM) Rules being rectified in one DoE Circular would be the participation of the L-RES of DUs in the power retail market. Essentially, this will cancel out the ‘three-year winding down period’ being imposed upon DUs’ L-RES in the questioned RCOA Rules.
Fuentebella indicated that the Circulars are targeted for signing and eventual enforcement before the end of this year.
Following that, he noted, that they will be working on the corresponding filings at the high court, and will ultimately seek the lifting of the prevailing TRO on the RCOA policy.
The RCOA is a market restructuring prescription under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) intending to empower consumers to choose electricity service according to their preferences of quality as well as reliability, and more importantly, based on their budgets.

AC Energy’s Indonesia wind farm to go live early-2018

By Lenie Lectura - October 23, 2017

INDONESIA’S first wind farm being undertaken by AC Energy Inc. and partner is nearing completion, with commercial operations expected to happen early next year.
“Indonesia’s first utility-scale wind farm’s construction stays on track, nearing 70-percent completion and is expected to be ready for commercial operations in the first quarter of 2018,” the power arm of conglomerate Ayala Corp. said on Monday.
PT UPC Sidrap Bayu Energi (UPC Sidrap), the project proponent, has started the installation of 30 Gamesa G114 2.5-megawatt (MW) wind-turbine generators. The wind-farm power project will have a generating capacity of 75 MW and is estimated to cost $150 million.
Also recently, Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan, together with local government officials of South Sulawesi and high-ranking officials of the State Electricity Co. (PLN) in the Sulawesi region, visited the site. The visit, according to AC Energy, demonstrated the government’s support to the ongoing construction of the country’s first commercial wind farm.
AC Energy has partnered with UPC Renewables Indonesia Ltd. for the development, construction and operation of the said wind project in Sidrap, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.
The project will also be AC Energy’s first greenfield offshore investment through its affiliate AC Energy International Holdings Pte. Ltd., a Singapore private limited company.
Ayala Corp. said the Sidrap project will be funded through equity and project financing to be provided by the Overseas Private Investment Corp., the United States government’s development finance institution, and PT Bank Sumitomo Mitsui Indonesia, the Indonesian subsidiary of the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. of Japan.
UPC Renewables is a leading global energy player that develops, finances, constructs, owns and operates a portfolio of wind-power generation assets. The company and its proponents have successfully developed and operated renewable-energy projects in Italy, the US, Canada, China and the Philippines.
UPC Renewables and AC Energy have previously forged a partnership under North Luzon Renewable Energy Corp., the owner and operator of the 81-MW Caparispisan wind-farm project in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.
AC Energy has been expanding its footprint in the Southeast Asian region. Apart from the 75-MW Sidrap wind-farm project, the Ayala energy arm also has a 20-percent stake in Star Energy (Salak-Darajat) B.V., which acquired Chevron’s geothermal operations in Indonesia. The acquisition was a major milestone for the company as it plans to scale up its renewable-energy portfolio to 1,000 MW.