Monday, February 28, 2011

Palace presents priorities

Business World Online
Posted on February 28, 2011 10:58:34 PM

A FINAL LIST of 23 priority measures was presented yesterday by Malacañang to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), meeting for the first time under the Aquino administration.

Congress leaders pledged approval of the list, which Palace officials said tackled human development, economic progress, infrastructure development, good governance as well as enhancement of national sovereignty and rule of law.
"At the House [of Representatives at least half [of Malacañang’s priorities] are in advanced stages of discussion," House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. said in a briefing after the meeting.
Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, meanwhile, said: "we have to support the President, see to it that the legislative program ... will be tackled by the Senate, the sooner the better."
The final priority list -- culled from an initial list of 32 identified in January by Cabinet officials -- is a bit lengthier than the 17 measures identified last month by Malacañang. It comprises:
  • the fiscal responsibility bill mandating legislators to pass counterpart revenue-generating provisions for every loss-causing law;
  • the rationalization of fiscal incentives offered investors;
  • an anti-trust measure;
  • a National Land Use Act that will ensure equitable access to resources and sustainable development;
  • amendments to the government procurement law to support the public-private partnership program;
  • amendments to the build-operate-transfer law to ensure uniformity in the treatment of investors and transparency in the award of contracts;
  • amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act to address continued power sector inefficiency;
  • amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act;
  • amendments to the National Health Insurance Act to expand basic health care coverage to more of the poor;
  • amendments to Labor Code provisions preventing night work for women;
  • reorganization of the National Food Authority;
  • creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
  • creation of the Land Administration Authority;
  • a water utilities reform bill;
  • a measure streamlining perks at state-owned firms;
  • strengthening of the witness protection, security and benefit program;
  • better protection for whistle-blowers;
  • changes to the 1935 National Defense Act to address current security issues;
  • a measure prescribing the rights and obligations of foreign vessels passing through the country’s sea lanes;
  • defining the country’s maritime zones to provide clear territorial limits;
  • a revival of the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program that ended in February 2010;
  • extension of the basic education term to 12 years; and
  • the postponement of this year’s Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections and synchronizing this with the 2013 national and local polls.
Measures that have already hurdled the committee level at the House are those extending the basic education term, the postponement of the ARMM elections, and changes to the Labor Code and perks at state-owned firms.
Mr. Belmonte said the LEDAC had discussed all but one of the priority measures during the five-hour meeting. The fiscal responsibility bill, he said, would have required more time than was available. The LEDAC was also forced to defer discussion of the 2011-2016 Medium Term Philippine Development Plan.
President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, asked what bills he wanted Congress to pass before the end of its first regular session on June 9, cited the deferment of the ARMM polls.
Yesterday’s LEDAC meeting -- originally scheduled for end-January but moved as the Palace worked to trim the priority list -- marked the first time in over a year that the consultative and advisory body was convened.
Republic Act 7640, signed by then President Fidel V. Ramos signed into law in 1992 states that the body should meet at least once every quarter. The last LEDAC event, according to state planners, was on Oct. 15, 2009.
The LEDAC is chaired by the President with the Vice-President as vice-chairman. The Senate President, Speaker of the House, seven Cabinet secretaries, three other senators and three other congressmen who deal with socioeconomic issues are members. In principle, the council also includes a representative each from the local government, private sector and youth sector. -- AMGR

Aboitiz Power studying use of seawater for power plant

Sunstar Davao
EXPERTS behind the proposed 300-megawatt (MW) circulating fluidized bed coal-fired power plant in southern Davao are seriously considering using seawater for the facility's requirements so as not to seriously disturb fresh water sources in the area.
Aboitiz Power Corp. vice president for Business Development Tommy Sliman said this plan is currently being studied by technical experts of the company who are also doing soil bearing tests on a 51-hectare property in Binugao, Toril, Davao City and Inawayan, Sta. Cruz town.
"This will cost us a little bit more but are willing to do it. We do not want to disturb our neighbors and their use of the water in the area," Sliman said.
Sliman said the proposed power plant will be located at the tail end of the fresh water sources near the sea and should not have a major impact on water sources.
He said, however, that the company is studying all possibilities to make sure the plant will not cause inconvenience.
"The desalinated water will supplement our water needs without seriously affecting the fresh water sources in the area," Sliman said. "This is part of Aboitiz Power's commitment to being a socially-responsible company. We want to be part of the communities where we are present."
The planned desalination facility will take seawater from Davao gulf and shoot it at high pressure through thick membranes to take impurities and salt out of the water. The result is pure fresh water that can be used for the power plant.
Sliman said the operation of the power plant is like boiling water in a kettle. Coal is used to boil water at high temperature and high pressure in order to create steam. Steam will, in turn, propel the turbine that will operate the generator to create electricity.
The steam is then cooled by another set of water, to bring it back to liquid form again. The same water is re-used and boiled to create steam again. Excess water will be used to water plants around the power plant or for flushing toilets. More excess water will be discharged after passing through a water treatment plant.
"We will just heat the water a little bit, cool it and return it to the sea," Sliman said.
Aboitiz Power Corp. 1st vice president Manuel "Bobby" Orig re-emphasized the need for the power plant considering Mindanao's fast economic growth. The power deficit is projected to go as high as 484-MW by 2014. As of the present, no new major power plant is being constructed to meet this growing demand.
He said Mindanao is too dependent on hydroelectric energy sources that when there is drought, the whole island goes into a power crisis. He said Mindanao must diversify its energy sources to ensure a reliable, safe and affordable power for all.
"We need to create a right mix of energy sources so that when we experience long droughts, Mindanao will have reliable and affordable power to propel its growth," Orig said.
Even with the circulating fluidized-bed coal-fired power plant, hydro power will continue to remain a major power source for Mindanao, he added.
He said while Southern Mindanao consumes more than half of the island's demand for power, only 20 percent of the total capacity is being generated here. This makes the region dependent on long transmission lines, which when damaged, isolates the region from its main power sources in the north.
Aboitiz Power is one of the country's biggest generators of renewable energy resources. In Mindanao, subsidiary Hedcor Inc. is constructing five run of river hydroelectric projects with a combined capacity of 55 MW.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 01, 2011.

Meralco power project may cost P7B

Business mirror

MANILA Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s largest power retailer, is looking at spending between P6 billion and P7 billion for its foray into the power generation business.
“We’re in discussion with several banks right now, particularly for our first project or the 150-megawatt (MW) aero derivative power plant,” Betty Siy-Yap, Meralco chief finance officer, told reporters in a press conference, as she added that the total project cost is still being finalized.
“But off hand, it [could cost around] P6.5 billion. We’re looking at financing 70-percent of the project through debt and the rest through equity infusion from the parent company,” she added.
Siy-Yap also noted that they have the capability to finance the equity portion at the parent company level.
The 150-MW power plant forms part of Meralco’s five-year plan to put up 1,500 MW of additional generating capacity.
“The entire 1,500-MW power generation portfolio could entail an investment of $2.2 billion to $2.3 billion. But for the first 150-MW power plant, it will cost us P6.5 billion to build it, and we’re still completing cost estimates,” Siy-Yap said.
Meralco president and chief executive Manuel V. Pangilinan pointed out the need for the country to have new power plants in order for rates to go down.
 “It’s where Meralco should be moving into building power plants sooner rather than later. It has the ability to market the power and the financial strength to do it as well,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan earlier said Meralco expects to put the power plant on stream as early the first quarter of 2012. The planned power facility will be a combined-cycle gas turbine, which is similar to a jet engine and will run by liquefied natural gas, diesel or aviation fuel.
Pangilinan explained that they considered this technology so it could be designed and be brought down quickly, and that they plan to build the facility. Meanwhile, Pangilinan declined to give his company’s guidance numbers for this year.
“In terms of outlook, demand only grew by around 2 percent in January and February as compared to the 10 percent sales growth last year. Though our tariffs are slightly higher this year compared to the average last year, yet still we are not in the position of giving a guidance number for this year,” Pangilinan said.
He reasoned that they still have a pending the application for increased tariffs under the third regulatory period with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Meralco also announced its audited consolidated core net income reached P12.2 billion for the year while consolidated reported net income amount to P9.7 billion. The power retailer said last year’s financial results reflect higher recurring net income compared with that of 2009 as a result of increased volume of energy sold.
Meralco added that unprecedented 10 percent growth in sales volume was the result of unusually high temperatures, higher consumption brought about by election spending in the first half of 2010 and of the upturn in business expansions within the franchise area throughout the year.
Its year–to–date system loss rate was at an all-time low of 7.94% percent, which more than half a percentage point lower than the 8.5%-cap set by the ERC.

Aboitiz looks at seawater for Davao power plant

business mirror

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—The Aboitiz Power Corp. (APC) yesterday said it is seriously considering using seawater for its proposed 300-megawatt fluidized bed coal-fired power plant project in southern Davao so as not to disturb fresh water sources in the area.
Like pouring cold water over the opposition’s claim that APC’s proposed power-plant project will compete with residents over the use of fresh water, the APC said the proposed plant will be located at the tail end of the area’s freshwater sources and very near the sea. Thus, it will not impact the area’s freshwater sources.
Instead of using fresh water, the proposed plant will be using desalinated water, which is now being studied by APC’s technical experts.
“The desalinated water will supplement our water needs without seriously affecting the freshwater sources in the area,” said Tommy Sliman, APC vice president for business development.
“This is part of Aboitiz Power’s commitment to being a socially-responsible company. We want to be part of the communities where we are present,” he added.
  Sliman said the company’s technical experts are doing soil-bearing tests on a 51-hectare property in Binugao, Toril, Davao City and Inawayan, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.
He admitted that using desalinated water will be a bit costly.
“This will cost us a little bit more, but we are willing to do it. We do not want to disturb our neighbors and their use of the water in the area,” he said.
To make this feasible, APC will also set up a desalination facility near the proposed power plant.
This will take seawater from the Davao Gulf and shoot it at high pressure through thick membranes to take impurities and  salt out of the water.
The result is pure fresh-water that can be used for the power plant.   
 Sliman explained that the operation of the power plant is like boiling water in a kettle. Coal is used to boil water at high temperature and high pressure in order to create steam. Steam will, in turn, propel the turbine that will operate the generator to create electricity.   
The steam is then cooled by another set of water, to bring it back to liquid form again. The same water is reused and boiled to create steam again. Excess water will be used to water plants or to flush toilets in the plant. More excess water will be discharged after passing through a  water-treatment plant.
“We will just heat the water a little bit, cool it and return it to the sea,” he said.
APC first vice president for Mindanao Affairs Manuel “Bobby” Orig said there is a need for new power plants in Mindanao because of the growing demand for electricity in the island brought about by its fast economic growth.
Mindanao’s power deficit has been projected to go to as high as 484 megawatts by 2014.
Orig also reiterated APC’s call to diversify Mindanao’s power sources to avoid widespread brownouts in the island like what happened in 2010 due to the very low water level in the National Power Corp’s hydropower-plant dams in Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon.
  He said Mindanao can no longer afford to be dependent on hydropower plants because when there is drought, the whole island goes into a power crisis.
It is now high time for Mindanao to diversify its power sources to ensure a reliable, safe and affordable power for all, Orig said.
“We need to create a right mix of energy sources so that when we experience long droughts, Mindanao will have reliable and affordable power to propel its growth,” he added.
Orig, however, said that APC’s fluidized bed coal-fired power plant will not replace but augment the island’s hydropower plants.

Quezon eyes auction of Pagbilao plant again

Manila Standard Today 
By Alena Mae S. Flores
The local government of Quezon has threatened again to put the 700-megawatt Pagbilao coal power plant in the province in the auction block for non-payment of real property taxes.
Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said talks to resolve the tax issue between the Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Quezon Gov. David Suarez were still ongoing.
The local government earlier threatened to auction the plant by March 9 after postponing the bidding originally scheduled on Feb. 9.
“It was postponed because the national and local governments were resolving the issue but so far there’s no final agreement,” Aboitiz Power Corp. senior vice president Luis Miguel Aboitiz said.
Suarez agreed to stop the planned auction of the power plant last month in exchange for infrastructure projects for the province to be financed by the national government.
The plant supplies about 7 percent of the power demand in Luzon. The Quezon provincial government and the municipality of Pagbilao, however, had threatened to auction it off, claiming the operator owed them P6.1 billion in real property taxes.
National Power Corp. assumed the responsibility of paying all the taxes on the plant when it awarded the contract to operate to Team Energy Corp.
The Quezon provincial government claimed that TeaM Energy owed it P6.1 billion in real property taxes from 1997 to 2010. Napocor, meanwhile, said the Local Government Code exempted it from paying tax on the plant.
Aboitiz Power sells the electricity output of the plant under its independent power administrator contract with the government.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Group reiterates opposition on coal power plants in Mindanao

 By Jun Pasaylo ( Updated February 25, 2011 06:29 PM 

MANILA, Philippines – A Mindanao-based environment organization maintained its opposition on the development of coal power plants in the southern Philippines, saying the region’s energy production is enough to supply the requirements of its residential users.
In a telephone interview, Jean Marie Ferraris, team leader of the Davao-based Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan, urged the government to reveal the “true energy requirements of Mindanao consumers instead of orchestrating the looming crisis in the region”.
“We asked the Department of Energy to reveal the truth of the looming crisis,” Ferraris said, believing that the development of coal power plants in Mindanao is aimed at addressing the demand of the mining sectors and not the residential users.
The statement came after residents of Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato protested on the development of coal fire facilities in the area.
Lake Sebu residents opposed any coal mining, coal power plants and other extractive activities following the entry of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) to their rich agricultural and ancestral lands, according to Ferraris.
SMC holds coal operating contracts for the 17,000-hectare coal rich area in Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu.
The group believed that the development of coal plants will only “serve the interest of mining companies, heedless of its negative effects on people’s health, livelihood and life”.
“It’s not the people but the mining companies that need more energy,” Ferraris said, citing that most of the undertakings are located near several mining projects in Mindanao.
The Mindanao Power Alliance (MPA) disclosed last year that the bulk of the power demand from the mining industry will cause a shortage by 2015 in Mindanao. 
The area needs at least 1,500 megawatts where 1,000 MW of which will be consumed by the mining corporations, according to the MPA.

Napocor acts to avert fuel supply run-outs in small power plants

 By Ted P. Torres (The Philippine Star) Updated February 26, 2011 12:00 AM 

MANILA, Philippines - Reacting to reports of power shortages in far-flung areas, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) said it was working to avert a fuel supply run-out in small power plants in far-flung islands and inland barangays being operated by its missionary electrification arm, the Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG).
Napocor president Froilan A. Tampinco said they have concluded negotiations with fuel suppliers like Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. (Pilipinas Shell), Petron Corp., and Filpride Resources Inc. to resume fuel deliveries to the SPUG areas.
He said payment would be made “once it receives some financial relief from the National Government.”
According to Tampinco, only four out of the 157 power plants being operated by SPUG actually experienced a fuel run-out. These are the Casiguran Diesel power plant in Aurora, the Cuyo diesel power plant in Palawan, Power Barge 108 in Tawi Tawi and the Camotes diesel power plant in Cebu.
In the case of Camotes, the fuel problem lasted for only three days (from Feb. 9 to 11), while Power Barge 108 was out of diesel for only one day (Feb. 3), as the delivery of its fuel supply was delayed due to bad weather.
“Due to budget constraints, National Power has indeed been experiencing some problems with the fuel supply of the SPUG areas, but we wish to assure the public that we are already undertaking several mitigating measures to address the matter,” Tampinco added.
He added that local government units and electric cooperatives have agreed to advance the payment for the fuel requirements of the SPUG plants in their areas, as was the case in Cebu and Siquijor, and soon, in Palawan and Romblon.
Meanhile, Napocor is hoping that the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would reimburse at least P2 billion, or half of the P4.367 billion that the power agency had advanced for the preservation and maintenance of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).
In separate letters to Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima and Budget Secretary Florencio V. Abad, Tampinco said the requested fund will be used to immediately settle Napocor’s overdue fuel payables, which has run up to P1.3 billion.
The rest of the requested P2-billion reimbursement will be used to pay for Napocor’s ongoing fuel deliveries, as well as those that are scheduled until the middle of March 2011.
Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras endorsed Napocor’s request for financial reimbursement.
“Following our evaluation of National Power’s request vis-à-vis its precarious financial situation and its impact on the critical power situation in the missionary areas . . . the Department of Energy finds the request in order and hereby endorses it for the release of an initial amount of P2 billion, representing partial reimbursement of expenses for the BNPP preservation and maintenance,” Almendras said.
In 1986, Napocor transferred all BNPP assets were transferred to the National Government in 1986. However, Napocor continued to shoulder the expenses for the upkeep of mothballed nuclear power plant amounting to roughly P40 million to P50 million per year.
From 1986 to end 2010, Napocor accumulated P4.367-billion worth of advances for BNPP-related advances.
The energy secretary said the reimbursements may be charged against the Gas-Malampaya Fund, pursuant to DBM-DOE-DOF Joint Circular 3-08, which pertains to the implementing guidelines for the release of funds from the Malampaya Gas royalty fees.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Napocor negotiates for fuel deliveries to SPUG areas

Business World Online
Posted on February 25, 2011 07:04:29 PM

THE NATIONAL Power Corp. (Napocor) has concluded negotiations with fuel suppliers to resume deliveries of fuel to off-grid areas.

Napocor President Froilan A. Tampinco said in a statement that Napocor negotiated with Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Petron Corp. and Filpride Resources, Inc. to resume fuel deliveries which were stopped after the agency could no longer pay its obligations.

The state-owned firm committed to pay its obligations to the suppliers "once it receives some financial relief from the national government."

"Due to budget constraints, Napocor has indeed been experiencing some problems with the fuel supply of the [Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG)] areas, but we wish to assure the public that we are already undertaking several mitigating measures to address the matter," said Mr. Tampinco.

He added only four of the 157 power plants in SPUG areas ran out of fuel.

These are the Casiguran diesel power plant in Aurora, the Cuyo diesel power plant in Palawan, power barge 108 in Tawi Tawi, and the Camotes diesel power plant in Cebu.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has approved the third generation rate adjustment allowing Napocor to charge an additional P0.949 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in Luzon SPUG areas, P1.195/kWh in the Visayas and P1.468/kWh in Mindanao.

This replaces the provisional authority earlier granted by the ERC to Napocor to increase rates by P0.50/kWh implemented in the January billing period.

On Jan. 14, Napocor-SPUG filed for an increase of P1.3163 per kilowatt hour (kWh) under its generation rate adjustment mechanism and P0.1982/kWh under the incremental currency exchange rate adjustment for SPUG areas. The increases were based on deferred costs for fuel and foreign exchange that Napocor sought to recover.

Napocor also sought higher missionary universal charges of P0.23/kWh from the ERC to have operational efficiency in SPUG areas. The regulator approved a P0.0454/kWh charge in September last year.

Recently some SPUG areas received help from local government units through loans which will be offset through its power bills.

"We also wish to acknowledge the invaluable assistance given to us by the local government units and the electric cooperatives who have agreed to advance the payment for the fuel requirements of the SPUG plants in their areas, as was the case in Cebu and Siquijor, and soon, in Palawan and Romblon," said Mr. Tampinco.

Napocor said it is also expecting "at least P2 billion, or half of the P4.367 billion that Napocor had advanced for the preservation and maintenance of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant."

Electricity end-users subsidize SPUG areas through the universal charge for missionary electrification. -- 
Emilia Narni J. David

Angat power plant to be repaired in preparation for summer

Business World Online
Posted on February 25, 2011 07:03:43 PM

SOME AREAS of the Angat hydroelectric power plant may be rehabilitated and repaired in preparation for the summer months.

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) said it filed a motion to the Supreme Court "that in view of the continued El Nino Phenomenon and to avoid the possibility of scarcity of potable water within the Metro Manila area, the low-level outlet and By-Pass No. 5 [of Angat] will be repaired and rehabilitated immediately."

Both are non-power components of the plants.

"That was actually just a motion informing Supreme Court that rehab works of some portions of the dam need to be undertaken," said Conrad S. Tolentino, PSALM Vice-President, in a text message to reporters. PSALM currently has a case involving Angat pending with the Supreme Court.

Mr. Tolentino added there is an existing memorandum of agreement between the National Power Corp. (Napocor) as the operator and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) regarding the repair project.

No date has been set yet for the repair.

A Napocor official said the repair is likely to cost P33 million and could be funded by the MWSS.

The dam and the hydroelectric power plant is operated by Napocor. It provides 97% of the water requirements of Metro Manila.

Angat Dam in Bulacan provides 97% of Metro Manila’s water supply. It is seen as crucial in providing water during the summer months. Last year, water levels in Angat Dam fell to 157.58 meters in July -- well below the critical level of 180 meters -- causing a water shortage in Metro Manila.

The water level in Angat is currently at 198 meters.

Ownership of Angat Dam is being disputed in court after PSALM was barred from awarding winning bidder Korea Water Resources Corp. (K-Water) its contract.

On May 26 last year, the Supreme Court issued an indefinite temporary restraining order against PSALM and K-Water after a case questioning the legality of the bidding was filed by Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc., Freedom from Debt Coalition, Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party, Alliance of Progressive Labor and Akbayan Representative Walden Bello was filed to the court. The restraining order prevents PSALM from awarding the contract to K-Water.

The case is still pending in the Supreme Court. -- 
Emilia Narni J. David

Thursday, February 24, 2011

DMCI Holdings posts 89% income growth

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated February 24, 2011 12:00 AM 

MANILA, Philippines - Consunji-led holding firm DMCI Holdings Inc. reported a net income of P8.85 billion last year, up 89 percent from P4.68 billion in 2009 on one-off gains and strong growth of its construction, mining and power units.
 The increase in DMCI’s earnings was boosted by gains from the sale of human resources firm Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Co. of Manila last December. DMCI sold its 98.19 percent stake in AG&P to a group of local and foreign investors that include Kuwaiti China Investment Co. The deal was valued at P1.75 billion.
Meanwhile, earnings from the construction division more than doubled to P1.67 billion while the mining business chipped in P2.19 billion, or an increase of 87.7 percent from the previous year’s contribution due to higher sales volume and coal prices.
The company earlier said sales volume reached nearly seven million metric tons, at the upper end of management’s target of six to seven million tons.
 The power business contributed P886 million, more than 18 times the P47 million recorded a year earlier.
The real estate business, on other hand, registered net earnings of P1.27 billion, 25 percent higher than the previous year’s figure of P1.02 billion.
Earnings from Maynilad Water Services Inc. rose 12.7 percent to P1.89 billion from P1.67 billion. The Consunjis own 42 percent of Maynilad, which received approval for its P450-billion capital expenditure program until the end of its concession.
DMCI also has a 58 percent stake in Semirara Mining Corp., which added significant value to existing coal mining operations with its entry into power generation.
The group is aiming to produce a total of 1,550 megawatts of power by 2013, from zero for most of 2009. This will be done through through the rehabilitation of the Calaca coal plant and the addition of the 600-MW brownfield project.
DMCI closed flat yesterday at P33 each share. “At its current price of P33 per share, the stock is currently trading at 8.7 times its FY 2011 price earnings, which is a steep discount to the 14.1 times PE of local conglomerates and the 13.8 times PE of the market,” noted stock brokerage firm CitisecOnline said.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gov't to put up P12.9-B hydropower, irrigation project in Isabela

( Updated February 23, 2011 10:07 PM 

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government signed today a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the establishment of a P12.9 billion hydropower and irrigation project in Isabela province which will generate 100 megawatts and irrigate 41,700 hectares of new areas to boost food sufficiency, senior government official said.
"This project is not only a prime example of the rewards of the Convergence Initiative, but of Public-Private Partnerships the President and our administration are so optimistic about. Such a project is necessary if we are to address one of the biggest issues facing us today: rice self-sufficiency," Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said.
He said the project is in line with the Aquino administration's agenda of empowering farms and rural enterprises to become vital components in the government's drive to achieve food security and more economic growth in the countryside.
"Our presence here today is evidence enough that we are taking this as an unwavering commitment to our people. We will uplift the welfare of our farm and rural workers, and, in the process, we will establish the systems and infrastructure so that food self-sufficiency is realized during and beyond our term," he said.
To achieve this goal, Ochoa said, the government has started taking steps to move away from heavy dependence on rice imports and clear the bottlenecks in the bureaucracy that impede efforts of agencies to achieve the shared objectives.

Philippine electric rates highest? False


What a time we live in. As I mentioned several weeks ago, this Year of the Rabbit would turn out to be anything but resemble a sweet bunny.

The Middle East is exploding in revolution that may play out to create disastrous results. The global financial crisis is going into the potential of a hyperinflation stage. Governments around the world are raising debt levels to extremes never seen in history, forecasting a significant drop in the standard of living for billions of people. Individual freedom in countless nations is being threatened by governments fearful of being unable to maintain their power.
Perhaps, the events causing the chaos that we see around might be connected.
We have heard so much in the last weeks of how the ability of people to connect through the Internet, whether
on social sites such as Facebook, or with the general access to information. And yet as the ease of access to information available to the average citizen of the world grows, there is a comparable distrust that governments are telling the truth.
Then the question might be asked, are governments “lying” more often, or is it just that people are more aware of the facts today? Or are people just more skeptical of governments?
This Age of Information has given us all the ability to check and recheck almost everything we hear as “truth.” However, maybe the opposite has happened. Maybe because we have so much access to information and we know that everyone else has this access also, we have come to assume that everything we hear is the truth. We seem to take for granted that whatever an “expert” tells us is correct. Perhaps, because we have all this access to information, we are less critical about what we hear.
We tend to accept so much without any critical analysis on our own part. Perhaps, the best example is the supposed settled science of all the nonsense about climate change. I say nonsense, because there is no scientific consensus. Look it up for yourself. The “facts” are manipulated and the data have been proved to be falsified. How much more that we accept as “truth” the hazards of mineral development, or the impact of legal logging on flooding, for example, may simply not be true?
In one of the major daily newspapers yesterday ran the headline “PHL has world’s highest power rates.” “The Philippines, which ranks among the most corrupt countries, also holds the unenviable record of having the highest residential power rates not only in Asia but in the entire world.”
That headline and statement is unequivocal with no room for any interpretation. But is it true?
To quote further: “The residential rate here [the Philippines] is about 18 US cents per kilowatt-hour. It is 17 cents in Japan, 15 in Singapore, 8 in Thailand, 7 in Malaysia, 5 in Indonesia and 3 in Vietnam, he [a member of Congress] said.”
I looked at my own electric bill. Last month it was P4,166.55 for a consumption of 396 kWh. So that is P10.52 per kWh. At the current peso-dollar exchange rate of P43.685, I am actually paying 24 US cents, not 18 cents. Before government taxes, the rate is 21 US cents. I am now confused.
The Napocor generation charge is 10 US cents and the Meralco distribution charge I pay is 7 US cents, so maybe that is where we get the 18 cents mentioned above.
Although not mentioned, I looked at rates from Hong Kong Electric. HK Electric is charging 18.6 US cents before taxes and other charges, the same as the combined Napocor and Meralco basic charges. That’s interesting.
The 3 cents figure for Vietnam must be old news. The government is raising prices by 15 percent on March 1 and each kilowatt-hour will cost (much cheaper by comparison to PHL), 6.5 US cents.
But then, I look at Singapore through Singapore Power Group. As of January 2011, the per-kilowatt-hour rate to residential users is 24.10 Singapore cents, or 18.89 US cents. That’s impossible! We have been told that the Philippines has “the world’s highest power rates.” Or maybe not.
Also not mentioned in the specific country examples given in the newspaper article, Europe is part of the world the last time I looked. So I went to, which is “Europe’s Energy Portal,” “A commercial organization, strongly rooted within the EU, but run independently from the European Commission.” This organization has current residential electricity prices for all of the European countries.
The per-kilowatt-hour residential rates for several European countries in US cents, including value-added tax: Denmark, 33.79; Germany, 31.31; Austria, 26.58; Italy, 26.71; and England, 18.49. Two of the lowest were Greece (14.56) and Bulgaria (11.86).
With all these numbers being thrown out, you are probably as confused as I am. But I am perfectly clear on one thing. If I lived in Denmark, my electric bill last month would have been not P4,166.55, but P5,845.42. An American example? Rates in Hawaii are 21.53 US cents in Honolulu and New Yorkers pay US 21.27 before taxes.
The facts are clear and simple. The Philippines does not have the highest average residential electricity rates in the world. The newspaper headline and article were false.
How can the government, private business and the people address problems when we do not have accurate information about the problem? Note that all this about the Philippines having the highest rates is a result of a hearing by the House energy committee on the high cost of electricity in the country. And these legislatures are crafting policy on this false information?
Are power rates high in the Philippines in comparison to many countries? Yes. Why? Because we generate most of the power from imported fuel. We do not use enough domestic coal. We do not capitalize on our geothermal resources. We are being talked into the inefficiencies and uselessness of large-scale solar- and wind-power generation. No wonder. False and inaccurate information.

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Island power plants run out of fuel

Many areas from Aurora to Tawi-Tawi in darkness
By Abigail L. Ho
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:39:00 02/23/2011

MANILA, Philippines—Several generation facilities under the National Power Corp.’s Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) have ceased operations, plunging areas they serve into darkness for up to over a month now. More facilities will stop operations by end-March when they finally run out of fuel.
Napocor documents obtained by the Inquirer showed that as early as January 17, the Casiguran diesel power plant in Aurora had run out of fuel and ceased operations. This meant areas served by the facility have been in darkness for more than a month now.
Other SPUG plants have since followed suit. The Cuyo diesel power plant in Palawan has been out of fuel since January 28, the Calapan modular diesel-fired unit in Oriental Mindoro since February 2, the Tandubas diesel plant and Power Barge 108 in Tawi-Tawi since February 3, the Camotes diesel facility in Cebu since February 4, and the Guintarcan plant in Cebu and the Dinagat plant in Surigao del Norte since February 5.
The Lubuagan facility in Kalinga, Mamburao modular in Occidental Mindoro, and Pilar plant in Cebu also ran out of fuel on February 6.
These plants, together with many others, had to stop operating when they ran out of fuel and their suppliers refused to deliver any more petroleum to them. The suppliers’ refusal to deliver stemmed from Napocor-SPUG’s non-payment of their fuel purchases.
Napocor-SPUG’s suppliers included Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Petron Corp., Filpride Resources Inc. and Unioil Petroleum Philippines Inc.
Plants that were still operating were also slated to run out of fuel in the next few weeks if Napocor would not be able to find a way to pay its fuel-related arrears.
Some of the plants under Napocor-SPUG had to resort to voluntarily shut down on some days to preserve the fuel they still had on stock. This enabled them to extend their fuel supply to as long as April or May. Some plants, however, simply did not have enough fuel to conserve.
Napocor president Froilan Tampinco said the state power firm would soon be able to pay SPUG’s fuel suppliers as it had asked the national government to reimburse the expenses it incurred in preserving the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, a facility considered a national government asset.
He said the state firm had initially sought P2 billion of the P4.2 billion that it had advanced to the national government these past years. The amount to be disbursed by the Department of Budget and Management would be earmarked solely for SPUG’s fuel purchases.