Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gov’t to borrow for PSALM

Business World Online
Posted on July 31, 2011 10:52:43 PM

THE COUNTRY could borrow more than what has been set for next year as state-owned Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) has secured Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) approval to course its loans through the national government.

“[The borrowing plan for] PSALM has been approved by the DBCC,” Finance Undersecretary Rosalia V. de Leon told BusinessWorld on Friday, adding that this wasn’t included in the 2012 borrowing plan released earlier in the week.
“The only concern of the DBCC was the treatment of the borrowing because they didn’t want it to impact on the national government’s debt or fiscal deficit,” Ms. de Leon added.
The DBCC, she explained, greenlighted the request after consultations with various entities such as the International Monetary Fund and the Department of Justice. The national government would be the borrower on record but the funds would be relent to PSALM so it would not be added to the public debt stock, Ms. de Leon added.
She claimed it would also have no impact on the deficit, which the government is targeting to cap at P286 billion next year or 2.6% of gross domestic product (GDP).
The Department of Finance has proposed coursing the borrowings of select state firms through the national government in a bid to bring down their borrowing costs. Ms. de Leon previously estimated that the government could secure interest rates 50 to 75 basis points lower than what state-owned firms would get.
The government will borrow to finance PSALM’s operations and maturing obligations next year, Ms. de Leon said. There is no final figure yet negotiations are continuing.
PSALM has to settle $3 billion in obligations this year, mainly due to National Power Corp.’s maturing debts, as well as its own contracts with independent power producers.
The state-owned firm already raised P20 billion through five-year and seven-year peso-denominated retail Treasury bonds in April. In 2009, it also issued $1 billion worth of 10-year global bonds.
Ms. de Leon stressed that the Department of Finance would not “open the floodgates” for all state-owned firms to borrow through the national government.
“PSALM has its own revenue stream and they will be paying this debt,” she said, contrasting it to debt-laden National Food Authority (NFA) which was also hoping to course its borrowings through the government.
The grains agency’s proposal was nixed by the DBCC. “In the case of NFA, we would have had to advance their debt payments,” Ms. de Leon pointed out.
The NFA is seeking to raise P75 billion this year to refinance its debts in order to lengthen maturities and lock in lower interest rates. The state firm is already buried in debt amounting to roughly P154 billion.
The government wants to raise P174.8 billion from external sources next year, with roughly P97.9 billion via global bonds. A total of P529.5 billion will come from the domestic market.

Petition vs power rate increase junked

Business World Online
Posted on July 31, 2011 10:43:12 PM

PETITION OF consumer groups against a power rate increase implemented by Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) last year has been dismissed by the Supreme Court (SC) for failure to seek redress in a proper forum.
In a decision promulgated July 6, the high court’s second division dismissed the petition filed by the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, Inc. (Nasecore), Federation of Village Associates and Federation of Las Piñas Village on technical grounds, highlighted by their failure to contest the decision before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
The case stemmed from the ERC’s approval on Dec. 19, 2009 of Meralco’s application to raise the distribution rate. This allowed Meralco to charge an additional P0.269 per kilowatt-hour (kWh)corresponding to P1.4917/kWh from P1.2227/kWh.
Nasecore and the other groups, which failed to attend ERC hearings on Meralco’s petition, went straight to the high court in January 2010 and sought a temporary restraining order on the regulator’s decision, citing additional burden on consumers.
Petitioners also claimed that the ERC violated due process in its proceedings in favor of Meralco after their request for additional evidence was not heeded.
The high court, however, said the petitioners failed to exhaust all remedies before haling the case to court.
“The general statements used by petitioners to excuse their direct recourse to this court are not the concrete, compelling, and valid reasons required by jurisprudence to justify their failure to comply with the mandated procedural requirements. In addition to this, the urgency of the resolution of matters raised by petitioners is negated by the fact that rates approved by the ERC, in the exercise of its rate-fixing powers, are in a sense, inherently only provisional,” the decision read.
Further, the court said that the issue cited by the petition has been superseded by the ERC’s order on March 10, 2010 that upheld the P0.269/kWh increase but excluding the rate distortions proposed by Meralco. The order was issued after a third party appealed the December 2009 decision before the ERC.
On the violation of right to due process, the court said that the petitioners themselves failed to appear regularly in hearings scheduled by ERC on the issue.
“It must not be overlooked that prior to the issuance of the assailed decision, petitioners were given several opportunities to attend the hearings and to present all their pleadings and evidence... Petitioners voluntarily failed to appear in most of those hearings,” the decision read.
Finally, the court cautioned the ERC in issuing decision despite petitioners’ pending request for additional evidence.
“Even though the ERC, as an administrative agency, is not bound by the rigidity of certain procedural requirements, it is still bound by law and practice to observe the fundamental and essential requirements of due process in justiciable cases presented before it,” the court said. -- NRM

PCCI hits focus on renewable energy

Says PH needs baseload plants, lower power ratesBy: Abigail L. Ho
Philippine Daily Inquirer

PCCI: Bring electricity prices down first before burdening consumers again with FIT rates for renewable energy projects.
The government should find ways to drive current electricity prices down before introducing another burden to consumers and industries through the feed-in tariff (FIT) rates for renewable energy projects, the influential Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.
PCCI energy committee chairman Jose Alejandro said power rates were expected to increase even more next year due to the expiration of the transition supply contracts (TSCs) attached to the privatized plants and independent power producer (IPP) contracts of National Power Corp.
“Can we expect that the new contracts that will be negotiated will have lower rates than the old TSCs? Of course not. We expect the new rates to be higher,” Alejandro said in an interview Friday.
These would be further exacerbated by petitions by Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. for the universal charge, as well as the generation rate adjustment mechanism (GRAM) and the incremental currency exchange rate adjustment (Icera), automatic adjustments that could move rates either up or down.
The introduction of the FIT rates for renewable energy projects would add another burden to consumers and businesses, Alejandro said, making the country even less competitive on the global stage.
“We’re already charging too high for power. It would have been okay if we were just one or two centavos higher than our neighbors, but our rates are double or even triple those of other countries in the region. We can’t have any more increases,” Alejandro said, referring mainly to the FIT rates.
The FIT scheme assures renewable energy developers of future cash flow as electricity end-users will be charged fixed amounts to cover the production of energy from renewable sources.
Payment for the use of clean energy will come from a uniform per-kilowatt-hour charge, dubbed FIT Allowance (FIT-All), which will be collected from all electricity end-users.
The National Renewable Energy Board recently approved a FIT rate of 12.75 centavos a kWh for renewable energy projects. This universal levy would be borne by all power users by 2014, when all expected renewable energy projects would have already gone on line.
Instead of pushing to get renewable energy projects on line, Alejandro said the government should focus on getting more commitments for additional baseload generation capacity.
At this point, Alejandro said, the country already had enough renewable energy capacity from its numerous hydro and geothermal installations. Some projects such as biomass and mini-hydro could be installed in off-grid areas. Solar and wind, however, should take a backseat—at least for the next three to five years.
“Our priority should be building baseload and reserve capacity and bringing power rates down. We need sustainable, reliable power supply. We don’t need [renewable energy] now. It’s not reliable, it’s not controllable, and it’s very costly,” Alejandro said.
“It will be counterproductive for the country to focus on [renewable energy]. Let the technologies mature first, but in other countries, not here. We can still catch up, especially when the technologies become much cheaper to install,” Alejandro added.

Philippines risks losing investors in solar projects

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Local solar developers have warned the government that the country could lose some $650 million (more than P27 billion) in potential investments in the energy sector if it kept the installation target for solar facilities at a mere 50 megawatts.
According to the Philippine Solar Power Alliance (PSPA), the 50-MW installation target would only bring in $150 million in investments, as opposed to a target of 269 MW, which could bring investments to as much as $800 million.
“The [difference of] $650 million in investments that proponents are already prepared to make in the Philippines will seek other markets instead and we will again miss this chance. The Philippines is not the only Asean country with sufficient [sunlight],” PSPA said in a statement.
The group also pointed out that the Department of Energy has actually announced an installation target of 269 MW for the solar sector during the National Renewable Energy Program launch last June. However, the initial submission to the National Renewable Energy Board saw a reduction to 100 MW. The final figure submitted last month was further cut to 50 MW.
The installation target referred to the total capacity of renewable energy facilities that will be allowed to be constructed within a three-year period.
PSPA president Dennis Ibarra said there was no reason to lower the installation target to 50 MW as the additional capacity and investments in the solar energy sector would “have positive economic multiplier effects and will contribute a substantial amount of taxes on income, property and on the importation of equipment.”
“For power consumers, 269 MW of solar power facilities would mean cheaper sources of energy as it will reduce electricity prices in the near future,” Ibarra added.
Ibarra also pointed out that there was much interest in solar power in the Philippines as there were, as of May this year, pending applications for solar renewable energy service contracts from at least 40 local and international developers. These proposed projects could readily generate more than 400 MW in additional capacity.
Based on documents from the Department of Energy, the Philippine affiliate of Belgium-based Enfinity filed applications for solar projects that could generate 192 MW in 15 sites, including in the off-grid islands as well as the economic zones in Clark, Cavite, Mactan and Zamboanga City.
Other project applications from Lopez-owned First Philec, Ayala-led PhilNewEnergy and international players Youil and Sunconnex, among others, ensured that “far more than 31 MW of solar power are ready to be commissioned in the Philippines.”—Amy R. Remo

SC upholds Meralco hike

Manila Bulletin
July 31, 2011, 7:01pm
MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Court (SC) threw out a petition filed by several consumer groups seeking to nullify an Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) order approving Meralco’s 26.9 centavo increase in its distribution rate starting 2010.
In a 16-page decision penned by Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno, the Court’s Second Division denied the petition of the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, Inc. (Nasecore), Federation of Village Associations (FOVA), and Federation of Las Piñas Village Association (Folva) to cancel ERC’s December 14, 2009, order. The petitioners had claimed that the ERC order violates their right to due process.
In its order, the ERC approved the implementation of a Maximum Average Price (MAP) for 2010 of P1.4917 per kwh starting Meralco’s January, 2010 billing.
“The Court is of the opinion that considering the facts in this case, including all the events that occured both prior to and subsequent to the issuance of the December 14, 2009 decision, the ERC did not deprive petitioners of their right to be heard,” the SC ruled.
Based on the records, the High Court said the petitioner had been given notice to attend all the hearings conducted by the ERC, but they voluntarily failed to appear the hearings.
After the issuance of the assailed December 14, 2009 ERC order, the Court noted that a certain Engineer Robert Mallilin, one of those opposing Meralco’s application for adjustment in distribution rates, filed a motion for reconsideration before the ERC.
On January 25, 2010, ERC issued an order directing Nasecore, Folva, and FOVA to file their respective comments on Mallilin’s MR.
Instead of filing their comments, Nasecore and FOVA begged off from participating in the proceedings before the ERC on the ground that they have already elevated the issue before the High Tribunal.
Meanwhile, Meralco filed a manifestation and motion wherein it expressed its decision to voluntarily suspend the implementation of the December 14, 2009, order pending ERC’s resolution of Mallilin’s MR, which was subsequently granted by ERC.
During the scheduled February 5, 2010, hearing on the issue, only Meralco appeared and neither the petitioners nor Mallilin participated in the proceedings.
“Where opportunity to be heard either through oral arguments or through pleadings is granted, there is no denial of due process. It must not be overlooked that prior to the issuance of the assailed decision, petitioners were given several opportunities to attend the hearings and to present all their pleadings and evidence in the MAP 2010 case. Petitioners voluntarily failed to appear in most of those hearings,” the Court said.
The SC also junked the claim of the petitioners that some 4.3 million customers of Meralco stand to suffer “irreparable injury” if the ERC’s order would not be stayed through the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO).
“But this asserted injury can be repaired, because had petitioners participated in the proceedings before the ERC and the latter had found merit in their appeal, the undue increase in electric bills shall be refunded to the consumers,” the SC explained.
The SC added that all the other issues raised by petitioners in connection with MAP 2010 are factual in nature and should be raised before the ERC.

PNOC-EC pays P2B in cash dividends

business mirror


STATE-RUN Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) on Friday released cash dividends of P2.004 billion as approved by its board on July 12.
Gemiliano Lopez Jr., PNOC chairman and chief executive, said total cash dividend paid to shareholders has amounted to P5.56 billion.PNOC-EC is 99.79-percent owned by the government through PNOC. 
Lopez said the series of cash dividends declaration have not hampered the company in its mandate of seeking sustainable energy sources such as oil, gas and coal. 
This, as the Malampaya consortium recently announced it will undertake a development program of the gas field amounting to $1 billion to $1.5 billion to sustain its commitments under Service Contract (SC) 38.
In SC 59 and SC 63, PNOC-EC, together with its respective partners BHP Billiton and Nido Petroleum, will undertake exploratory drilling in its respective service contract areas next year where the partners are confident of uncovering the country’s next major oil and/or gas find. 
In SC 37, PNOC-EC is also on track with its exploration work and is scheduled to drill in 2012. 
For its coal program, the development of the Lumbog mine within PNOC-EC’s concession area, Coal Operating Contract 41, is well underway and where the company expects to produce at least 200,000 metric tons (MT) a year. 
In the same contract, Lopez said two additional mines have recently been approved by the company’s Board of Directors for development, namely Sta. Barbara and Lower Butong. In all, PNOC EC aims to produce 800,000 MT a year from these mines in COC 41 by 2015.
“As PNOC-EC celebrates its 35th year in the industry, we reaffirm our commitment of exploring and harnessing indigenous energy resources to provide a stable energy supply for the country,” Lopez said.
(Paul Anthony A. Isla)

‘Power harnessed from sun to solve Mindanao’s power crisis’

business mirror


SOLAR power advocates Philippine Solar Power Alliance (PSPA) claimed on Friday that the recurring brownouts in Mindanao could be fixed by solar power plants with the short time frame needed to deploy such technologies.
“The process of putting up solar power plants is the fastest among all energy technologies. A 10-megawatt [MW] solar power plant can be installed and commissioned in just six months or even less because it does not have fuel or other environmental concerns,” Dennis Ibarra, PSPA president, said.
He said the time needed to deploy the solar power projects is shorter than fossil fuel-based, large hydroelectric, geothermal power projects and other renewable-energy sources.
“The speed of deploying solar power plants can be attributed to over 40 years of installation and connection experience by established companies that are now keen on investing in Mindanao. Local and international solar companies can produce at least 400 MW of electricity to deal with power shortages if the government allows them,” he said.
As of May 2011, Ibarra said 40 local and international project applications were submitted to the Department of Energy (DOE).
He added that these projects, if allowed to produce 10 MW each, can generate 400 MW of clean and renewable power.
He said the power-supply shortage has been causing intermittent outages in Mindanao throughout the year and that reports indicate that power reserve levels remain low at only 100 MW during peak hours.
Ibarra said Mindanao’s power-generating capacity is heavily reliant on weather and water supply as about 50 percent of the electricity generated is from hydroelectric power plants.
The DOE, however, has put a 50-MW cap on solar energy installation target for three years.
Thus, the PSPA has been appealing to the DOE to increase its installation targets to 269 MW instead of 50 MW.
“The Renewable Energy Act of 2008 does not prioritize or discriminate against different renewable-energy technologies, but calls for a balanced set of technologies, along with their distinct features and applications,” Ibarra said.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Renewable Energy Act suspension sought

Saturday, July 30, 2011
LOCAL government units (LGUs) and the Association of Geothermal Energy Producing LGUs (AGEPL) are pushing for the suspension of the implementation of Republic Act 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008.
Ormoc City Mayor Eric Codilla, president of AGEPL, said Section 15c of the law, which provides that power generator or developer using renewable energy should only be subjected to a maximum realty tax rate of 1.5 percent, would greatly affect the operation of the geothermal-host LGU, especially on their Special Education Fund (SEF).
The SEF gets 40 percent of the Real Property Tax (RPT) while the rest is divided between the LGU (70 percent) and barangays (30 percent).
Among the barangays, the host community gets the lion's share of 50 percent while the other half is divided by the rest of the villages.
"The slashing of one percent of the existing 2.5 percent realty tax from the developers would mean a reduction of our SEF that takes 40 percent of the city's real property taxes," Codilla said.
Ormoc City is host to Energy Development Corp. (ECDC), the city's highest real property taxpayer.
EDC's RPT is expected to drop to P60 million if the law is implemented which will impact on the SEF. Expected to be hit first are the teachers' allowances, hiring of city-paid job order teachers, and participation to provincial, regional and national sports events.
Codilla said AGEPL has already submitted open letters to President Benigno Aquino III asking for the deferment of the implementation of the law. Similar letters were also sent to the Department of Education and Department of Energy for their support.
Codilla said the alliance composed of the cities of Ormoc, Kidapawan (North Cotabato), Sorsogon (Sorsogon), and the towns of Kananga (Leyte), Valencia (Negros Oriental), Sto. Tomas (Batangas), Manito and Tiwi (Albay) have joined the call and would submit a manifesto to the Senate asking to exempt the existing developers from being covered by RA 9513.
"Since RA 9513 is already enacted, the best thing they can do is to weak the law's applicability so that the RPT reduction will be applied to host communities of newly developed renewable energy sources. Applying the law on existing resources is unfair considering the RPT is already part of the developers' production cost," Codilla said.
According to him, power rates of existing plants are based on present tariffs but reducing the RPT will not necessarily redound to lower power rates because RA 9513 does not compel power plant owners to do so and that makes the law advantageous only to investors, and not the government and consumers.
"In the case of Ormoc City, since EDC already existed before the enactment of the law, it should be exempted from this special realty tax rate provided in RA 9513," Codilla said.
Ormoc City currently collects P100 million real property tax from EDC. As of May this year, the city has been utilizing EDC's 1 percent SEF amounting to P40 million to build 186 classrooms and school perimeter fences, to distribute school supplies, to open new high schools and to cover the salaries of 52 job order teachers.
Codilla said that in 2004, the city has collected only P20 million and insisted for the provision in the Local Government Code to collect the actual taxes due for the city.
Since 2006 when Ormoc began collecting RPT from EDC, it has spent more than P237 million to build 183 classrooms, 32 two-unit comfort rooms, 66 perimeter fences, four covered courts, three stages, etc. in different schools. When before, Ormoc classrooms accommodated 85-115 students each, the ratio has gone down to 1:60.
The city has also established the country's first e-learning center and plans to build 10 more similar facilities this year. It allotted P1 million in 2010 to finance 44 scholars and P1.2 million in 2011 for 37 scholars. It also provides school supplies to all elementary pupils in public schools every school year consisting of four notebooks, two pad papers and two pencils.
Meanwhile, the mayor admitted the move against RA 9513 implementation is expected to be difficult but he said he is hopeful of this to succeed to protect the future of education in his city and the rest of the geothermal-host LGUs in the country.
Ormoc is still reeling from the P40 million reduction of its Internal Revenue Allotment after the Supreme Court upheld the conversion of eight new cities.
"Another P40 million loss from the RPT will greatly affect our delivery of social services," Codi la said. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)

Aboitiz Power’s profit fell 17% in six months

Manila Standard Today
by Alena Mae S. Flores
Aboitiz Power disclosed to the Philippine Stock Exchange Friday that core net income in the first semester amounted to P9.9 billion, down 23 percent on-year.
The power generation business contributed P10.2 billion to the income, down 20 percent. The power generation business accounts for 91 percent of earnings from Aboitiz Power’s business segments.
“Once adjusted for one-off items, AboitizPower’s generation business registered close to P9.5 billion for the period, 27 percent lower compared to the same period last year,” it said.
Aboitiz Power said earnings from power generation declined due to the lower prevailing prices at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.
The average price of electricity in the WESM dropped 55 percent in the January-to-June the period because of low demand for electricity in Luzon.
“This consequently resulted in a year-on-year decline in the power generation group’s average selling price. There was also a 7 percent decline in year-to-date net generation from 4,984 gigawatt-hours in 2010 to 4,640 GWh,” it said.
The company said the lower WESM prices, however, were tempered by Aboitiz Power’s move to reduce its exposure to the spot market with the signing of additional bilateral contracts
Aboitiz Power said net profit in the second quarter rose 4 percent to P5.5 billion,.
“In this quarter, movements in exchange rates resulted in a P36 million non-recurring gain due to the revaluation of consolidated dollar-denominated loans and placements and a one-off gain due to a cost recovery by an associate company relating to its fuel importation,” it said.
Aboitiz Power’s attributable generation capacity stood at 2,331 megawatts by end June, up 16 percent year-on-year. The company said the completion of the 16.5-megawatt Hedcor Sibulan in July last year and the last unit (or 82 MW) of a Cebu coal power plant boosted capacity.
The company also assumed full ownership and control over the 70-MW Bakun hydro facility in May, acquired the 242-MW power barges in Navotas in the same month, and partially completed the rehabilitation of the Ambuklao hydropower facility in June.
“Favorable developments with respect to our greenfield hydro projects, the recent rebirth of the Ambuklao Hydro, as well as the significant strides made by the Subic and Davao clean-coal greenfield plants are demonstrating that AboitizPower’s project development pipeline is full and will provide earnings growth over the next few years. The recent acquisition of the Navotas barges will also provide an interesting flexibility to our portfolio of assets,” Aboitiz Power president and chief executive Erramon Aboitiz said.
Aboitiz Power’s distribution business contributed P1 billion in the first half, up 74 percent, due to increase in sales to 1,814 gigawatthours from 1,753 GWh.

Aboitiz Equity H1 income drops 9% to P10.2B on lower power output By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated July 30, 2011 12:00 AM

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated July 30, 2011 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - Cebu-based investment holding firm Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. (AEV) reported a nine percent drop in net income in the first half of the year, weighed down by lower contributions from its power unit.
In a financial report filed yesterday, AEV said its net earnings reached P10.2 billion during the period, translating to earnings per share of P1.85. In the second quarter alone, however, AEV’s net profit rose 11 percent to P5.6 billion.
Power continued to account for bulk of groupwide earnings at nearly 80 percent, followed by the banking and food units with contributions of 14 percent and six percent, respectively.
Aboitiz Power Corp. chalked in a net income of P8.1 billion during the period, down from P9.7 billion the previous level. The power generation business pumped in P7.8 billion, registering a 20-percent decline due to lower average selling price and net generation recorded.
Average selling prices fell 16 percent given the softening of the spot market prices vis-à-vis first semester 2010 levels. The average price of electricity in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market recorded a 55 percent decrease as demand for electricity, particularly in the island of Luzon, remained flat versus last year.
Supply, in the meantime, showed increases given marked improvements on outage levels for Luzon-based power plants. The adverse impact on earnings, however, was tempered by AboitizPower’s strategic move of lowering its exposure to the spot market with the group’s increased contracted capacity.
AboitizPower’s net generation business likewise posted a seven percent decline from 4,984 gigawatt-hours (gwh) to 4,640 gwh. The drop was largely accounted for by reduced spot market transactions brought about by the prevailing low prices.
AboitizPower’s wholly-owned unit Therma Luzon Inc. (TLI), the administrator of the Pagbilao coal plant, recorded a margin squeeze for the period in review. Terms of its existing bilateral contracts do not allow TLI to cover for the increase in its fuel cost, which was mainly driven by the unfavorable global supply situation.
The combined income contribution of its hydro assets significantly improved from P116 million to P1.8 billion.
As of end-June 2011, AboitizPower’s attributable capacity was at 2,331 megawatts (MW), up 16 percent due to the completion of the 16.5-MW Plant A of Hedcor Sibulan in July 2010, completion of the last unit (or 82 MW) of the 26 percent-owned Cebu coal power plant in the fourth quarter of 2010, the assumption of full ownership and control over the 70-MW Bakun hydropower facility in May 2011, the acquisition of the 242-MW power barges in Navotas in May 2011, and the partial completion of the rehabilitation of the Ambuklao hydropower facility in June 2011.
– With Ted Torres

High power rates: Alarm bells for President P-Noy!

No photo

SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) Updated July 30, 2011 12:00 AM 

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I had a grand time reading the 25th silver anniversary issue of The Philippine STAR, which felt as thick, if not thicker than the New York Sunday Times during its heyday. It was great to read once more the articles of the late Sir Max Soliven and the late Ma’am Betty Go-Belmonte and Art Borjal as they related their respective stories of why they had to leave a very successful newspaper called the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and now I’m keeping these news clippings in my own personal files. Indeed, time flies ever so quickly. So let’s hope to see you in our next big anniversary bash… the 30th anniversary.
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With President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, III’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) over and done with, we should be getting ready to apply full power and get this sick nation of ours out of the economic rut that we’ve been stuck in the past 25 years. But then House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada revealed something that many businessmen already knew… that the Philippines is now the record holder for having the highest cost of electricity in Asia!
We’re paying P8.14 per kilowatt-hour for power in this country. If you ask me, this report ought to sound the alarm bells within the Aquino administration to search for solutions to bring down our electricity rates.
I just interviewed my good friend, Cebu Investment Promotion Center (CIPC) executive director Joel Mari Yu and he told me that when you are courting foreign investors, they ask you three questions: first, whether you have stable electric power; second, what is the cost of that power; and third, whether you would still have that power in the next five years. Joel very clearly told me that for us Filipinos, it is okay for us if we are subjected to a one or two-hour blackout per day because we merely leave the house and come back when there is power. But to a foreign investor, a 30-second power outage means a huge business loss. Now we’re talking about stable power.
Where we fail terribly is in the cost of that power. Supposedly, the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) was created to rationalize our power problems, but it has ended with P134.9 billion in loans and expenses which it incurred from 2007 to 2010. Add the reality that most of our regulatory agencies, which were created on behalf of the consumers, end up siding with the power operators. Mind you, this is not happening only with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), but it is also true of all regulatory agencies like the CAAP, LTFRB, NTC or MARINA.
This is something that President P-Noy totally missed out in his SONA and if he wants his economic team to achieve their seven to eight percent GDP growth targets, President P-Noy must seriously sit down with these regulatory agencies and perhaps remove the “utak wang-wang” that has permeated the minds of the officials of these governmental bodies so that they, too, must change their attitude in serving the basic needs of the Filipino people.
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For e-mail responses to this article, write to or Avila’s columns can be accessed