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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN independent power producer in Iloilo City is reaching out to prospective investors in the metropolis to address their projected energy requirement.

Engr. Henry Alcalde, project manager of the 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), said they expect the demand in Panay to increase once their new plant operates next year.

“If you lower the cost of power, you encourage consumption. Lower prices will also attract businesses in our area. And once these investors come in, they will gradually use up the capacities of the new coal-fired power plant and the diesel plant. How fast this demand will be, we don’t know. But once the demand gets higher than our capacity, we will try to address that,” Alcalde said.

The coal-fired power plant will be operated by the Panay Energy Development Corp. (PEDC), a subsidiary of GBPC under the Metrobank Group. It is expected to go online in the last quarter of 2010.

The construction of the coal-fired power plant has resulted in renewed interests by investors to enter Iloilo City, particularly business processes outsourcing (BPO) firms.

A major investor expected to do business in the city is giant land developer Megaworld which bought the old Iloilo airport lot in Mandurriao district for P1.2 billion.

Megaworld is planning to develop the 54.5-hectare lot into a new business district with facilities such as hotels, convention center and BPO offices.

Industry sources said Megaworld would require around 20MW of power for its initial operations which is estimated to cost P1.5 billion.

Recently, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which handles the transmission side of the energy sector, made a positive projection on the energy needs in the Visayas grid.

Without factoring in the projected huge power demand from new growth areas such as the 300-hectare South Road Properties in Cebu City and the 54-hectare Megaworld property in Iloilo City, the NGCP said the next round of power supply problems in Cebu, Negros and Panay would be felt in 2018.

Alcalde said NGCP’s projections somehow jives with their own forecast, with Iloilo City suffering a 4-MW shortfall by 2014 on an annual demand growth of 3%. This does not include Megaworld’s demand. 

Engr. Gil Altamira, GBPC commercial manager, said they are reaching out to Megaworld to find out how much power they will need.

“Power plants don’t just pop up like mushrooms. We have to know the needs of the consumers so we can plan ahead of time, whether Engr. Alcalde will put up another unit.” Altamira said.

In Negros and Panay, load growth averaged 6.1% and 5.9%, respectively, this year. Panay’s load grew nearly 50% in 2007 only because the Panay Electric Co., Inc., sole electricity distributor in Iloilo City, was synchronized to the grid that year.

Growing demand has used up power reserves in the grid, leaving Cebu, Negros and Panay vulnerable to outages whenever a plant breaks down. Rotating brownouts have been the norm in these islands since summer.

Cebu’s actual peak demand this year reached 577 MW, while those of Negros and Panay hit 226 MW and 221 MW, respectively. Including Bohol and Leyte-Samar islands, the Visayas’ actual peak demand this year reached about 1,300 MW.

The Cebu-Negros-Panay grid gets 360 MW from the geothermal fields in Leyte, boosting total dependable capacity in the Visayas to 1,466 MW. Of the 360 MW, 200 MW goes to Cebu first and the balance is divided between Negros and Panay.

Cebu, Negros and Panay are expected to continue to experience power shortage until the first quarter of 2010, when the first of three 82-MW coal plants that Cebu Energy is building in Toledo City comes onstream.  (With reports from BusinessWorld)

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

POWER supply is one of the major reasons why Transcom, a European business processes outsourcing (BPO) firm, decided to open shop in Iloilo City.

Duncan H. Cowie, Transcom vice president and regional manager for North America and Asia Pacific, said electricity was a key factor in their decision to locate their fifth Philippine site in Iloilo City.

“I consider power as a critical element of our business. And with power you have networks and the other elements that supply your infrastructure. I’m very excited that Iloilo has a new power plant coming on soon. Did that (power plant) make a difference in our decision? Absolutely. It’s very important to us. It’s so important to have security of supply because my clients don’t really mind what’s happening where we are. They only want to know we keep working,” Cowie said.

Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) is putting up a 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz, Iloilo City to address the power shortage not only in the city but in Western Visayas as well.

The power plant, which is expected to go online next year, will be operated by the Panay Energy Development Corp. under the GBPC umbrella and supply electricity to Region 6.

Cowie said they will initially employ more than 800 Ilonggos when they open next month.

“We plan to increase that capacity by 50% in the next six months. By March 2010, we expect to employ around 1,500 people and will increase to 2,000 by end of next year,” Cowie said.

Transcom will be located at the Amigo Plaza Mall on Iznart Street in downtown Iloilo City. The building has been accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority to host BPO firms.

Cowie said the manpower potentials attracted Transcom to locate its fifth center in Iloilo City after Metro Manila and Bacolod City.

“We are not attracted by facilities or regions. We’re attracted by the people, the individuals,” Cowie said.

Cowie said they began hiring and training employees more than a month ago.

Chris Mason, Transcom vice president for implementation and solutions, said they were did not meet any difficulty in hiring employees, particularly for the management level posts.

Mason said the hiring rate in Metro Manila is 20-25% but in Iloilo it ranges from 40-45%.

“Your hiring rate in Iloilo is double the national rate which speaks a lot of your manpower potentials here. Hiring management level officers is usually the hardest process but here in Iloilo, we did not find it hard to get the people we need. It’s primarily because of the numerous universities in Iloilo,” Mason said.

As regards Transcom expansion, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said he has been talking with several businessmen who are interested in putting up buildings for new and expanding BPO firms.

Cowie said North America and Asia Pacific are the fastest growing areas among Transcom’s five regional operation areas at 50% annually.

“Transcom’s global growth is around 20%. In North America and Asia, the fastest growing country is the Philippines. Our growth rate in Asia is more than 100% yearly. Two years ago, we only had 800 employees in the Philippines. This year, we already have more than 6,000 employees,” Cowie said.

Transcom’s main business areas are customer care, sales and support, credit management and additional customer related services. It also provides CRM consulting, translation and interpretation, and legal services. Its expertise is in a wide range of industry sectors including telecommunications, the financial industry, travel & leisure, utilities and retail/consumer goods. It has 75 sites in 29 countries worldwide.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A CONSORTIUM of electric cooperatives in Panay Island will begin negotiations with an independent power producer to purchase electricity from a 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant based in Iloilo City.

The negotiation kicked off with the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Panay Power Supply Consortium (PPSC) and Panay Energy Development Corporation (PEDC).

PEDC, a subsidiary of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) under the Metrobank group, will operate the coal-fired power plant being constructed at Brgy. Ingore in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

The PPSC is composed of Aklan Electric Cooperative, Antique Electric Cooperative, Capiz Electric Cooperative and Iloilo Electric Cooperatives (Ileco) 1, 2 and 3.

The negotiation is seen to culminate in a 25-year electric power purchase agreement (EPPA) between PEDC and PPSC member cooperatives.

Adrian Moncada, GBPC assistant vice president for commercial operations, said once they have concluded the negotiations, the EPPA will be submitted to the Energy Regulatory Commission for approval.

The PPSC was conceptualized in 2008 to address the worsening electricity shortage in Panay.

The looming expiration of the cooperatives’ power supply contracts with the National Power Corp., which is presently being privatized, in 2010 also prompted PPSC to look for potential suppliers.

The coal-fired power plant is expected to be operational in the last quarter of 2010. It is composed of two units each with a capacity to generate 82MW. The plant has a net production of 144MW

Engr. Wilfred Billena, Ileco 1 general manager and PPSC president, said they bidded out a total of 72MW for their power requirements starting 2011.

A total of 36MW was awarded to two renewable energy companies – Global Green Power and Asea One – while the remaining 36MW was awarded to GBPC.

GBPC has set aside 72MW, or 75% of the coal-fired power plant’s net generation for Iloilo City’s electricity needs.

The remaining 36MW of the coal plant will be allocated to 5 electric cooperatives in Negros Occidental and Oriental.

Engr. Gil Altamira, GBPC commercial operations manager, said their price per kilowatt-hour will be lower than the ERC-approved rate of P4.30/kWh in the EPPA between Central Negros Cooperative (Ceneco) and Korean Electric Power Corp., (Kepco) which will also operate a coal-fired power plant in Cebu.

“We will try to reduce our price from that of the Ceneco-Kepco deal. The advantage of the GBPC-PEDC plant is that it is embedded in Panay Island which could save us from additional transmission cost,” Altamira said.

Billena said their contract with GBPC and other suppliers might not be enough because of their unpredictable consumer growth.

“Our consumption is pegged at 30MW but sometimes we are surprised because we hit 32MW on certain days. The supply instability in the Visayas grid makes it hard for us to predict our growth. When these new capacities operate, we expect our connections to increase. Apparently, the supply that we are about to contract might not be enough,” Billena said.

Billena said an embedded power plant in Panay is advantageous compared to sources outside the island because it is “more stable and cooperatives here will be given priority.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE village chief of Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz, Iloilo City denied implementing an ordinance levying fees on quarry haulers of the coal-fired power plant project in the area.

Punong Barangay Ernie Poral said he was surprised to learn that his barangay treasurer Arleen S. Herva issued receipts to Mr. Rey Pelongco, who represented hauler Leonida Segura Marketing.  

Poral said he did not know that Herva received the money from Pelongco.

“When I learned about that, I told the treasurer to stop,” he said.

The collection of registration and color coding fees by the Ingore council is being questioned after the City Council disapproved Barangay Ordinance No. 6 which sanctioned the fees April 29, 2009.

The barangay ordinance required a P500 fee for the issuance of “barangay stickers and passes” on dump tucks carrying quarry load within their village.

The City Council’s committee on rules, ordinances, resolution, style, justice and legal affairs said the barangay government of Ingore has no power to enact such ordinance.

Copies of officials receipts issued to Leonida Segura showed that Herva collected P2,600 from the hauler from March 2 to 3, more than a month before the City Council nixed BO No. 6.

Poral said they only charged P50 per truck with corresponding official receipts.

“Of the 706 trucks registered, only 52 trucks were issued official receipts at P50 each. That’s only 7% of the total trucks at that time. When I knew about it, I stopped it. The expenses for the color coding stickers are my personal money,” he added.

Poral said he is willing to return the money if the haulers who paid want them back.

The village chief said he is also wondering why the City Council waited too long before disapproving the barangay ordinance.

“The ordinance was approved (by the barangay council) September 18, 2008 but it was disapproved (by the City Council) April 29, 2009. We received a copy of the resolution disapproving the ordinance May 7, 2009. It took the City Council almost 8 months to act on our measure. Why? I don’t know,” Poral said.

Poral said he told the haulers about the ordinance and the required fees they will pay if the City Council approved their ordinance.

“But I did not impose the fees until the Sangguniang Panlungsod acted on the ordinance. Because of my busy schedule, I was not able to keep track of things and remind my treasurer about the ordinance. But no one among the haulers will complain against me and the council on this,” he added.

Meanwhile, a city councilor said barangay ordinances cannot be implemented without review and approval of the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

Councilor Perla Zulueta said barangay officials who impose unapproved ordinances can be held liable.

Atty. Ferdinand Panes said Section 57 of the Local Government Code (LGC) requires that all barangay ordinances must pass scrutiny of the City or Municipal council.

Section 57 stipulates that “Within ten (10) days after its enactment, the Sangguniang Barangay shall furnish copies of all Barangay ordinances to the Sangguniang Panlungsod or Sangguniang Bayan concerned for review as to whether the ordinance is consistent with law and city or municipal ordinances.”

If the Sangguniang Panlungsod or Sangguniang Bayan fails to take action on barangay ordinances within 30 days from receipt thereof, the same shall be deemed approved.

“If the Sangguniang Panlungsod or Sangguniang Bayan finds the barangay ordinances inconsistent with law or city or municipal ordinances, the Sanggunian concerned shall, within 30 days from receipt thereof, return the same with its comments and recommendations to the Sangguniang Barangay concerned for adjustment, amendment, or modification; in which case, the effectivity of the Barangay ordinance is suspended until such time as the revision called for is effected,” the section said.

Section 58 of the LGC stipulates that enforcement of disapproved ordinances or resolutions is a ground for dismissal or suspension of the concerned official.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A PUNONG barangay and treasurer in Iloilo City may face criminal and administrative charges before the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Office of the Ombudsman for implementing an ordinance voided by the City Council that imposed fees on haulers of quarry materials.

Punong Barangay Ernie Poral of Ingore, LaPaz may be in hot water after he enforced Barangay Ordinance No. 6-2008 imposing a P500 fee for the issuance of “barangay stickers and passes” on dump tucks carrying quarry load within their village.

The barangay council approved the ordinance during its regular session September 6, 2008. The issuance of the stickers is based on six grouping and color coding system that will correspond to different haulers entering the barangay.

But the Iloilo City Council declared illegal the ordinance April 29, 2009 as based on the report of the committee on rules, ordinances, resolution, style, justice and legal affairs chaired by Councilor Eduardo Peñaredondo.

Peñaredondo said in the committee report that the ordinance is not within the powers of the Ingore barangay council to enact.

“It is in fact within the ambit of the powers of the Sangguniang Panlungsod. Therefore, the barangay is in effect regulating the use of the streets, which power is only to be exercised through an ordinance duly enacted by the Sangguniang Panlungsod. It is hereby recommended that the subject ordinance of Barangay Ingore be disapproved for being ultra vires,” the committee report said.

But before the SP can review and act on the ordinance, Poral imposed the barangay ordinance by exacting fees from haulers of quarry materials to the coal-fired power plant project. This is proven by copies of official receipts (Ors) obtained by The Daily Guardian.

In OR No. 3090213 issued March 2, 2009, Leonida Segura Marketing, one of the haulers, paid P2,150 for barangay registration (color coding). In OR Nos. 309022 and 3090226 issued March 3, 2009, the same hauler paid a total of P450 for the same purpose.

The receipts were issued and signed by barangay treasurer Arleen S. Herva.

This is not the first time that Poral and Ingore officials tried to usurp the powers of the city government.

Last December 17, 2008, the City Council also disapproved Barangay Ordinance No. 5-2008 which sought to regulate the passage of delivery trucks, vans and other similar vehicles in the village.

The disapproved ordinance also tried to set limits on the time of day that these vehicles will be allowed to pass through the village.

The same City Council committee headed by Peñaredondo said the Ingore council has no power to enact such ordinance regulating the use of city roads.

Instead, the City Council urged Ingore officials to pass a resolution asking assistance from the Traffic Management and Engineering Unit to help direct traffic in their village.

The Daily Guardian sent a text message to Poral for his reaction. He replied that he will explain his side today.

These disapproved barangay ordinances were passed by the barangay council months before the backfilling operations of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC).

GBPC is constructing a 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the barangay.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A KOREAN power firm is still keen on putting up a coal-fired power plant in Panay despite stiff opposition it met nine years ago.

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias said Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) plans to convert the Panay Diesel Power Plant (PDPP) in Dingle, Iloilo into a coal-fired power plant.

In an interview with the weekly cable TV talk show Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday, Banias said Kepco has not lost interest in putting up a power plant in Panay.

Kepco is part owner of SPC Power Corp., the mother unit of SPC Island Power Corp. which bought PDPP and Bohol diesel fired power plant early this year for US$5 million.

“In fact, they told me that their main plan after buying the plant is to convert the PDPP into a coal-fired power plant. They are still interested in investing in the energy sector here in Panay,” Banias said.

Kepco first proposed to put up a 100-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Tibiao, Antique but moved to Iloilo due to poor soil stability in the area.

The Korean power firm then planned to locate the project in the towns of Ajuy and later to Banate but it ultimately transferred to Cebu due to stiff opposition from environmental groups and the Catholic Church.

Kepco is now operating a US$270-million coal-fired power plant in Cebu.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THERE is nothing illegal in the assistance given to police officers and traffic enforcers who help maintain peace and order in barangays near the coal-fired power plant project site in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

Officials of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) justified the assistance they gave to policemen and traffic aides in the Sunday cable TV talk show Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta.

Engr. Adrian Moncada, GBPC assistant vice president, said they requested the LaPaz police to help protect haulers of filling materials that are being harassed by way of stoning by unidentified persons in Brgys. Ingore and Baldoza.

Moncada cited Executive Order No. 655 which mandates the PNP to protect vital installations and projects such as power plants. The same EO encourages the private sector to help in the security of power plants.

The traffic aides, meanwhile, were requested to help manage the traffic because the road going to the project site is narrow and accident prone.

“There have been harassments of the haulers from persons who want to gain from the project, naturally we requested for police assistance. And we also want to protect residents especially the children from trucks passing by the areas that is why we requested the help of the Traffic Engineering and Management Unit (TMEU),” Moncada said.

Moncada said Ingore officials should feel responsible in asking help from the TMEU as mandated by Resolution No. 2008-1912 of the City Council. This is the same resolution which disapproved Barangay Ordinance No. 5 passed by Ingore officials under Punong Barangay Ernie Poral. This disapproved ordinance sought to regulate traffic in the village, particularly the delivery trucks vans and other vehicles.

The council said the Local Government Code does not empower Sangguniang Barangays to enact traffic rules and regulations.

“We already requested the assistance of the police and traffic aides even before the council told the barangay to seek help from the TMEU,” Moncada said.

Engr. Henry Alcalde, project manager of the 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz, said the assistance and maintenance fees are part of their corporate social responsibility program.

Alcalde said the giving of food assistance and allowances to police and traffic aides is similar to the practice of plant owners and other businesses in Luzon.

“We don’t have a specific list of police officers and traffic personnel who will receive the assistance because it depends on who will be deployed to the area. What we have is a monthly budget of around P744,000. In Luzon, the rate is P80 a day per head,” he added.

The distribution of the meal assistance depends on the police officers and traffic personnel deployed by their superiors

GBPC officials said they also give maintenance fee, not disturbance fees, to Ingore and Baldoza residents to motivate them to help clean debris falling from dump trucks. The recipients are households by the roadside affected by the hauling activities.

There are 200 maintenance fee recipients “but the list grows every month because officials keep on adding names of those who will receive the fee,” Alcalde said.

“There is no law mandating that project proponents should give disturbance fees to residents. But as part of our corporate social responsibility and to enjoin the community to help in the project, we gave out maintenance fees to them if they help clean their surroundings,” Alcalde said.

The GBPC officials said there should be no malice in the assistance given to police officers and traffic aides because the company does not engage in illegal activities. They likened the assistance to donations of business groups and other entities to the PNP and Iloilo City government.

“But since some people are putting malice in the maintenance fee and assistance, we are mulling to stop it already,” Alcalde said.

Iloilo City at night. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Iloilo City at night. (Photo by Tara Yap)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO City and the rest of Panay Island are facing another debacle in the worsening power problems of the region.

 

Energy industry sources said SPC Power Corp., which bought the 146.5-megawatt Panay Diesel Power Plant (PDPP) operated by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) at Brgy. Tinocuan, Dingle, Iloilo, is hesitant to operate the plant because of the price of electricity.

 

The problem surfaced during the meeting Saturday of power industry stakeholders in Panay initiated by Dr. Raul Banias, presidential assistant for Western Visayas.

 

Banias said SPC will negotiate with electric cooperatives in Panay regarding the new price of electricity once the firm takes over PDPP operations March 25 from Napocor.

 

“As a merchant power producer, SPC will not be able to sell power at subsidized rates which Napocor offered to cooperatives. SPC will have to negotiate with the cooperatives regarding the price after the turnover of PDPP. The cooperatives will agree with Salcon’s price, well and good. If they cannot agree on the terms, SPC will not operate the plant and we will have bigger problems,” Banias said.

 

NPC sells electricity to cooperatives at around P2.80 per kilowatt-hour, which is cheap for power produced by a diesel-fired plant because of government subsidy.

 

Prevailing industry rates peg electricity from diesel-fired power plants at P8 to P9 per kWh depending on the fluctuations of oil prices in the world market and the peso-dollar exchange rate.

 

Engr. Edgar Mana-ay, who worked in the energy sector for more than 20 years, doubts if SPC will operate if the firm follows NPC’s subsidized rates.

 

“If the price is doubled or tripled up to P9 per kWh, maybe they (SPC) will continue the operation of the dingle diesel plant,” Mana-ay said.

 

If SPC does not run PDPP, Banias said Panay Island will lose some 50-60 megawatts of power, compounding the power woes of the island which is already reeling from 9-hour rotating brownouts.

 

The dilemma will trickle down to Iloilo City which draws 15MW from Napocor through its interconnection with Panay Electric Co. (Peco), the sole power distributor in the metropolis.

 

Mayor Jerry Treñas said Peco is only getting 8MW out of the 15MW it contracted from Napocor.

 

Iloilo City’s main source of power is Panay Power Corp. (PPC) whose mother company, Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), plans to construct a 164-MW coal-fired power plant.

 

“As we all know, demand for power in Iloilo City increases during summer season. It’s a critical period for the city. If there are problems with GBPC’s plants, where shall we get power when PDPP is not running?” Banias said

 

Banias said they came up immediate solutions to SPC’s problems but he doubts if these are feasible.

 

“One, we can opt to delay the turnover of PDPP to SPC but this is not possible. Another option is to transfer Power Barge 104 from Davao City but residents and politicians there will certainly object,” he added.

 

Another solution is the deployment of 15 units of generator sets in Iloilo City which Napocor promised to Mayor Treñas.

 

Treñas will ask President Gloria Arroyo to expedite the transfer of the gen-sets, which have a total capacity of 15MW, and avert a power shortage in the metropolis.

 

The President will arrive in Iloilo City today to inaugurate the expansion of a call center.

 

Atty. Dennis Ventilacion, president of Iloilo Electric Cooperative-2, said their power purchase contracts with Napocor are good until December 2010.

 

Ventilacion said they expect SPC to assume Napocor’s contracts with the cooperatives “but the price would reflect the true cost of power.”

 

“We expect electricity rates to increase once SPC takes over PDPP operations. Another problem is when SPC withdraws some of the plant’s capacity from the market because SPC might not rehabilitate some of the engines for economic reasons,” Ventilacion said.

 

SPC Power Corp. (SPC), formerly Salcon Power Corp., won the bidding for the 146.5-megawatt (MW) Panay and 22-MW Bohol diesel power plants November 12, 2008.

 

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) said SPC outbid two other firms after submitting the highest offer of $5.86 million for the two plants.

 

PSALM oversees the sale of government’s power assets which is mandated by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).

 

The other bidders for PDPP and Bohol plant were Therma Power-Visayas, a Philippine corporation owned by Aboitiz Power Corp., and Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp. of Philippine Investment Management Inc. (Phinma).

 

Organized in 1994, SPC also won the contract for Napocor’s 203.8-MW Naga power plant complex in Cebu under a rehabilitation, operation, maintenance and management (ROMM) agreement.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A BALANCE between immediate power needs and the environment must be observed in addressing the looming power shortage in Iloilo City and the rest of Western Visayas.

Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said he understands the immediate need of Iloilo City for additional and stable sources of power as regards the proposed coal-fired power plant in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

“We have to balance two things – energy that is needed immediately because the city is suffering from brownouts and the protection of the environment,” Zubiri said at the sidelines of the regional congress for renewable energy at Amigo Terrace Hotel Friday.

The neophyte senator, who is at the forefront of the Renewable Energy Law, said he understands “the need of the city for power now, not tomorrow.”

“No investments will come in the city without stable power,” he said.

But Zubiri is hoping that Panay will start tapping renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal and hydropower.

“We have to discover these renewable sources of energy because I believe that we have lots of potentials here. We can even transform the city’s trash into energy,” Zubiri said.

Citing the volatile oil prices in the global market, Senator Edgardo Angara, who also attended the congress, urged investors to invest in renewable energy.

Angara and Zubiri are the proponents of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008.

Angara said the Visayas region will be the first to experience power shortage in year 2009, “the Mindanao area will likewise experience power stage in 2010 and in 2011, the Luzon area and that will complete the nationwide shortage of electricity and power”.

“The Philippines is lucky to have abundant sources of renewable energy,” Angara said, clarifying that he is not against coal or other conventional sources of energy.

At the presentation of the Western Visayas Renewable Energy Source, the following are the topics and their lecturers: Wind Power by Ms. Rosario B. Venturina, SVP, Trans-Asia Power Corp.; Solar Energy-Roberto L. Puckett, President, Solar Electric Co; Hydro Power – Jose S. Natividad, CEO, Sunwest Water Electric; Bio-Energy: Waste to Energy- Ernesto V. Tan, SVP and CEO, ASEA ONE; Bio-Energy: Biomass Co-Generation-Antonio Steven L. Chan, President, Central Azucarera de San Antonio; Sustainable Biomass Power Development – Grace S. Yeneza, Preferred Energy Inc/Global Green Power, Plc Corp; and Geothermal-Agnes de Jesus, VP FirstGen Corp. (With reports from PIA)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE bid of Antique Governor Salvacion Z. Perez to seek for the cancellation of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the proposed coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City is too late in the day.

In an interview over the weekly cable TV talk show Serbisyo Publiko Sunday hosted by City Councilor Perla Zulueta, Engr. Adrian Moncada, assistant vice president of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), said Perez should have asked for the cancellation of the ECC within 15 days after it was issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Perez and four other Western Visayas governors – Isidro Zayco of Negros Occidental, Carlito Marquez of Aklan, Victor Tanco of Capiz and Felipe Hilan Nava of Guimaras – earlier wrote President Gloria Arroyo urging her to revoke the ECC issued to GBPC’s proposed coal-fired power plant at Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz, Iloilo City.

Moncada said the ECC was issued September 1 but the letter of the five governors only came out last week.

“If we refer to the DENR procedures, any protest to the issuance of the ECC must be done within 15 days after it was issued. I don’t think that the DENR will recall it at this time,” Moncada said.

Moncada said there could be political color to the anti-coal letter of the governors “but it is up to the President to act on this.”

But DENR Secretary Lito Atienza said they will not revoke the ECC to the coal-fired power plant project.

Atienza said President Arroyo forwarded the governors’ letter to his office for his action.

The DENR chief said the issues on the project’s effects on public health and environment have already been addressed in previous consultations and studies by their experts.

Atienza said the GBPC project will use clean coal technology and will solve the acute power problem of Iloilo and the rest of Panay.

Engr. Randy Pastolero of Panay Electric Co., the sole power distributor in Iloilo City, said the proposed coal-fired power plant will help lower electricity rates in the metropolis which is now pegged at P14 per kilowatt-hour.

“With the ECC of the coal plant already approved, there is now a pending reduction of the generation cost which is the prime factor in our power rates in Iloilo City,” Pastolero said.

Recently, Governors Zayco, Tanco and Marquez told Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas hat they did not intend to interfere in the city’s affair.

The three governors also said that they have no objection to the project as long as public health and the environment are protected.

ILED president Rex Drilon

ILED president Rex Drilon

Biz group slam guvs’ anti-coal letter

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN umbrella group of business organizations here slammed the five Western Visayas governors who called for the revocation of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of the proposed coal-fired power plant of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

Ilonggo business executive Rex Drilon, Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc. (ILEDF) president, said the actions of the five governors led by Salvacion Perez of Antique are “deplorable” and the “work of an evil hand.”

ILEDF is an umbrella organization of 14 major business and professional associations tasked with promoting business, investments and tourism in the city and province of Iloilo.

The Iloilo City mayor, Iloilo provincial governor and provincial DTI director are ex-officio members of the ILEDF board of directors. The group represents more than 350 small, medium and large businesses employing thousands in Iloilo.

The proposed coal power plant is a joint project of GBPC with the Formosa Group of Taiwan and will cost P18 billion, the biggest investment ever in Iloilo City and Panay Island.

“The actions of the Western Visayas governors, save for Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas who did not sign the petition, are mysterious, defy logic, border on interference on the affairs of other independent local government units and are anti-business and anti-investment. It is as if an evil hand is at work,” Drilon said.

Drilon, chief operating officer of Ortigas and Company Limited Partnership, expressed disbelief at Gov. Perez’s position “particularly because five years ago, she signed a memorandum of understanding with KEPCO, a Korean power company, to set up a 100-MW coal plant in Antique.”

“And today, Antique has a 15-MW coal power plant, which uses an older technology, operating in her province. If a coal plant was good enough for Gov. Perez in Antique why is she now objecting to a coal plant in Iloilo City?” Drilon said.

The ILEDF president also debunked the claims of the five governors that GBPC’s coal-fired power plant will pose danger to their constituents staying in Iloilo City

“That is hilarious and shallow. All the concerned parties went through a long, rigorous process to assure that the coal plant will be ideally situated and pose minimal adverse impact on residents and the environment. We went through another protracted process to secure the ECC. The benefits to our communities are undeniable and unquestionable,” he said.

Revoking the ECC issued to the project proponent will result in investor flight, straining Iloilo City’s economic development, Drilon added.

“With the ECC approval, contractual and supply commitments had been finalized by the investors. If the ECC is cancelled as proposed by Gov. Perez, the investors will be left holding the proverbial bag – this is no way to promote investments in our country and will only confirm the perception that, indeed, in this country, we change the rules of the game in the middle of the game,” Drilon added.

Drilon said the 164-MW coal power plant of GBPC, “together with the 100-MW coal power plant of DMCI Power in Concepcion, Iloilo, were designed to assure adequate, reliable, quality and cheaper electricity for the whole island of Panay in many years to come.”

“Ilonggos were banking on these power plants to solve their perennial brownout problems and high cost of electricity – obstacles to the attractiveness of Iloilo as an investment and tourism destination.”

Is she pro- or anti-coal?

Perez: Is she pro- or anti-coal?

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ANTIQUE Governor Salvacion Perez claims she is against coal-fired power plants but she is open to having one in her own province.

Perez expressed her willingness to allow the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Semirara Island in Caluya town in her most recent interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo Saturday.

Perez led four other governors in Western Visayas in signing a petition letter to President Gloria Arroyo asking her to revoke the environmental compliance certificate issued to the proposed coal-fired power plant in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

The other governors who signed the letter are Isidro Zayco of Negros, Victor Tanco of Capiz, Carlito Marquez of Aklan and Felipe Nava of Guimaras.

The five governors said the power plant poses health and environmental risks, particularly in thickly populated areas like Iloilo City.

But the statements of the governors, particularly Perez’s, in the letter petition contradict their pronouncements over the media.

In the radio interview, Perez said she has been against coal-fired power plants “a long time ago” because of their perceived ill effects on the environment and public health.

But in April 2003, Perez was a signatory to a memorandum of understanding on the coal-fired power plant in Antique.

President Arroyo even announced the signing during a meeting at Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center April 1, 2003.

Perez said they are willing to compromise with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas by moving the proposed power plant of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) outside the city.

And if the proponent wants, Perez said she will allow the project in Semirara Island where coal is being mined.

The lady governor said it would be better to put up the coal-fired power plant in Semirara Island because it is the source of coal.

“But they are saying that it would be expensive to install the transmission lines but in the long term power will be cheaper if it’s near the source,” she said.

Perez said she is also proud of the coal-fired power plant used by DM Consunji, Inc. which mines coal from Semirara Island.

The action of the five governors has earned the ire of Iloilo City leaders, particularly Treñas who said he was disappointed and insulted by the petition letter.

Treñas said not one of the governors informed him about the letter even if they met in several meetings.

The mayor went to Manila in a bid to convince President Arroyo not to heed the petition letter.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WAS Antique Governor Salvacion Perez suffering from amnesia when she wrote and signed a petition letter urging President Gloria Arroyo to revoke the environmental compliance certificate issued to the coal-fired power plant proposed by Global Business Power Corp. in Iloilo City?

Defending the petition letter, Perez said over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo that she has been against the establishment of coal-fired power plant “a long time ago.”

“It is not correct to say that we are opposing this project only now. We have been against this for a long time now. We need to develop renewable sources of energy because no matter what we say, coal is coal,” Perez said.

Perez said they could come up with a compromise with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas not to allow the coal power plant to be established in the city but in a place far from thickly populated areas.

The lady-governor said she and the four other governors in Region 6 are concerned with the effects of the plant on their constituents who are working and studying in Iloilo City.

Perez also cautioned Treñas not to be “onion-skinned and arrogant” over the issue lest he earns the ire of the five governors.

She also denied that they are after political mileage and popularity in coming up with the anti-coal letter.

The four other governors who signed the petition letter were Felipe Nava of Guimaras, Carlito Marquez of Aklan, Victor Tanco Sr. of Capiz, Isidro Zayco of Negros Occidental.

KEPCO PROJECT

Apparently, Perez forgot that she signed a document endorsing a coal-fired power plant in her home province.

Sometime in 2003, Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) proposed to build a 100-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Tibiao, Antique.

Five years ago, President Gloria Arroyo announced that Perez, in behalf of the Antique provincial government, signed a memorandum of understanding with Kepco Philippines Corp.

President Arroyo made the announcement in her speech before a meeting with rice farmers, irrigators associations, and the trade and agri-business sector in Panay April 1, 2003 at the Kalantiaw Hall of Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center in Iloilo City.

“So I am very pleased to let you know that this morning a memorandum of understanding was signed into… by and between the provincial government of Antique led by Sally Perez and Kepco Philippines, our representatives from Korea, Mr. Lee Gilbo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kepco Philippines Corporation, with the presence of Korean Ambassador Son Sang Ha, to construct and set up a 100-megawatt circulating, fluidized bed combustion power plant using the Semirara coal of Caluya in Antique.

The President’s speech can be downloaded from this link: (http://www.op.gov.ph/speeches.asp?iid=314&iyear=2003&imonth=4)

But the Kepco project did not push through as the proposed location did not pass the soil stability test even as environmentalists opposed the project.

Kepco later transferred to Ajuy then to Banate, Iloilo.

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada told this paper that Governor Perez “even lobbied for the Iloilo provincial government to reject coal so that Kepco will be forced to invest in Antique.”

But opposition from environmentalists forced the Korean firm to move to Cebu where it finally established two 50-MW coal-fired power plants in Naga, Cebu.

Iloilo City leaders tell Antique Gov. Perez

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

OTHER local government officials must respect the Iloilo City government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for allowing the construction of the proposed coal-fired power plant in LaPaz district.

This was the reaction of city officials to a report that five Western Visayas governors signed a position paper urging the DENR to withdraw the environmental compliance certificate issued to project proponent Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC).

Iloilo City officials were one in saying that their counterparts in other provinces should observe inter-local government unit courtesy in this issue.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said he did not even comment on the geothermal power plant expansion project in Negros Occidental, which is also being opposed by environmentalists, even if it will mean additional sources of cheap and reliable energy for the region.

“Negros is lucky because they have geothermal. We don’t have anything here. What if we tell Negrenses to stop the expansion because it will destroy the forest? What if we tell Governor Perez to stop coal mining in Semirara, how would she feel? It doesn’t make sense” he added.

Treñas said the city needs the project to bring in more investors and employment to Ilonggos.

“We need it badly. We have seen the renewed interest and confidence of investors in the business processes outsourcing upon learning that the power plant will be constructed,” Treñas said.

The mayor said other LGUs should respect Iloilo City “because this is our need and we know what we want.”

“They should not undermine us because we studied everything carefully. We are growing very fast and we need power. Our growth rate is even higher than the national average,” Treñas said.

Treñas said he was also surprised because Governor Nava signed the position paper “when we are partners in the Metro Iloilo Guimaras Development Council that will benefit from the project.”

Liga ng mga Barangay president Irene Ong said the five governors should “walk their talk” and refrain from commenting on the policies and programs of other LGUs.

Ong said that if coal is dangerous, “then Antique Governor Perez should (first) stop coal mining in Semirara Island.”

“That would be hypocritical of them if they oppose the plant but the mining continues. What do they know about the needs of the city?” Ong said.

The Liga is one of the staunch supporters of the project along with business groups and other sectors in the city.

Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. said the project will not only benefit the city and province of Iloilo but the entire island of Panay.

Gonzalez said other provinces should support the coal-fired power plant project “if they want the region to develop.”

“This (project) is something the city needs for development. The project will result in lower power rates aside from stable and reliable source of electricity. This particular project is good for one generation,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also emphasized that other LGUs “have nothing to do with issues in the city” and they should not underestimate the intelligence of Iloilo City officials.

“We don’t question the initiatives of other LUGs in their own jurisdictions. This is basic courtesy to another LGU. If other provinces are concerned with the environment, maalam man ang atun city officials and they know how to address these concerns,” he added.

Iloilo City Vice Mayor Jed Patrick said the governors should refrain from interfering from the affairs of the city and dictating its direction.

Anu labut nila? How would they feel if Iloilo City tells them to stop doing their own policies and plans? They should respect the independence of each local government unit,” Mabilog said.

Mabilog said they have carefully studied the project and heard both sides of the issue.

“They should not underestimate us because we are all elected officials. We have our own understanding and right now all we know is that we need power to spur our economy,” he added.

BRIGHT SPOT Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. stresses Iloilo role as an IT investment destination during the investment forum of the Iloilo Information Technology Week at Amigo Terrace Hotel Tuesday. Listening are (L-R) Antonio Jon of ILED, Atty.  Giovanni Miraflores, Rex Drilon II of ILED, and Dr. Glenn Aguilar of IFIT.  (Photo by Tara Yap)

BRIGHT SPOT Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. stresses Iloilo role as an IT investment destination during the investment forum of the Iloilo Information Technology Week at Amigo Terrace Hotel Tuesday. Listening are (L-R) Antonio Jon of ILED, Atty. Giovanni Miraflores, Rex Drilon II of ILED, and Dr. Glenn Aguilar of IFIT. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Iled now confident of promotional campaigns

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

SELLING the city and province of Iloilo to potential investors is a cinch with the looming construction of a coal-fired power plant in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

Rex Drilon II, Iloilo Economic Development Foundation president, said they will mount a major investment forum in Metro Manila late this year to push Iloilo to serious investors.

Drilon, the chief operations officer of Ortigas Co. and Limited Partnership, said they have been planning to mount the forum “but various problems, especially in the power sector, stopped us from going all-out.”

Drilon said the issuance of the environmental compliance certificate to two coal-fired power plants proposed by Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) and DM Consunji, Inc. will put Iloilo in an attractive position in the eyes of investors.

“We can now go full steam ahead with our marketing efforts for Iloilo. With these two power plants combining for more than 200MW of power, we have more than enough and investors will surely flock the city and province,” Drilon said.

GBPC, the mother company of Panay Power Corp. which is the sole power supplier of Iloilo City, is the proponent of the coal-fired power plant at Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz.

DMCI is proposing to construct a similar plant in Concepcion, Iloilo.

During the IT Investment Forum at Amigo Terrace Hotel Tuesday, Arman Lapus, GBPC executive vice president for commercial, assured businessmen that their company will deliver the plant in 2010.

“Cheap and reliable power supply will be available in time for the projected boom in the information technology sector. With the issuance of the ECC, we can deliver the plant by end of 2010,” Lapus said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has set several conditions for the proponents of the 164-MW coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City to mitigate any adverse effects of the project on the community.

The conditions are spelled out in the environmental compliance certificate issued by DENR Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza to Panay Power Corp. (PPC), proponent of the power plant which will be constructed on the PPC property at Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz district.

Atienza signed the ECC September 1, almost nine months after PPC, which is a subsidiary of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), submitted its environmental performance report and management plan (EPRMP) and environmental management plan (EMP).

The top condition set by the DENR is the continuous conduct of an “effective information, education and communication (IEC) program to educate stakeholders of the mitigating measures of the project.”

The IEC will also inform contractors, workers and local residents on the conditions set by the ECC and the environmental and human safety features of the project “for greater awareness, understanding and sustained acceptance” of the undertaking.

The IEC program will be implemented in the form of quarterly consultation with affected residents, farmers and fishpond owners.

Environmental training for the staff, contractors and workers will also be conducted to help them understand the mitigation, monitoring safety measures of the power plant.

The DENR also directed the project proponent to continuously implement the comprehensive social development program for the affected community. The program must be submitted to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) central and regional offices 30 days after receiving the ECC.

The proponent was also required to establish and maintain a 5-meter buffer zone planted with appropriate local species along the plant’s periphery.

Another condition is the installation of additional automatic sensor for monitoring temperature and other relevant parameters prior to the discharge of cooling water from the coal-fired power plant while maintaining the existing one.

As a general condition, the proposed plant shall conform with the provisions of Republic Act 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990), RA 8749 (Clean Air Act of 1999), RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act) and RA 9275 (Clean Water Act of 2004).

The existing memorandum of agreement on the environmental guarantee fund (EGF), environmental monitoring fund (EMF) and multipartite monitoring team (MMT) shall be revised to include the coal-fired power plant.

The revisions will include the increase in EGF and EMF for the cleanup and monitoring of the plant operations.

Also, the action/management program for the protection and enhancement of the Jaro River and the existing mangroves/aroma stands in the area shall be implemented continuously and regular monitoring of said river to include aquatic biota shall be continuously undertaken. The results of the monitoring shall be submitted to the EMB central and regional offices.

Engr. Adrian Moncada, PPC assistant vice president, said they will install the display of the continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) at the DENR regional office “so that the public can see that we follow the standards set by the law.”

“The CEMS will operate 24 hours, seven days a week and it will be open to the public. We want our operations to be transparent to the community,” Moncada said.

Moncada said they will also continue to help rehabilitate the Maasin watershed area and plant a buffer zone around the plant to address concerns about greenhouse gases.

DENR Secretary Jose "Lito" Atienza

DENR Secretary Jose Atienza

But DENR Sec. Atienza vows to act on it pronto

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) assured Ilonggos that no foreign interests can influence its decision relative to the proposed construction of a coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City.

 

DENR Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza said he has finished his personal assessment of Global Business Power Corp.’s (GBPC) application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the coal-fired power plant proposed at Brgy. Ingore in LaPaz district.

 

Atienza said it took his office some eight months to decide on the ECC application because “we studied very, very closely all the details and the requirements for the environmental clearance of this project.”

 

The DENR secretary said his decision “will be on the basis of what is good for us, not on what is being dictated from the outside.”

 

Ayaw ko nung pinakikialaman tayo ng mga banyaga dito sa anuman ang kailangan natin sa ating bansa. In our country, available ang coal. Tinitingnan natin papano natin magagamit ito sa ating pakinabang, but foreigners are telling us not to use them because it will pollute the world. But I say to them, they are the ones polluting the world, why don’t we look at them rather than them looking at us,” Atienza said, apparently taking a swipe at environmental groups opposing the project.

 

When asked on when he will act on the application, he said “immediately today.”

 

“I already heard all the positions. This is the last step in my own personal assessment. I will act on it as soon as I get back to Manila. Talagang strong proponent kayo for the project,” Atienza said when asked if he will approve the ECC.

 

The DENR chief arrived in Iloilo City Friday for the regional launching of the People’s Hour at the Department of Education Social Hall.

 

The People’s Hour gives the public the chance to face top DENR officials and air their problems and concerns relative to the agency’s programs and activities. 

IN-DEPTH STUDY

Atienza said his office made sure that the process and technology that will be used in the proposed coal-fired power plant will not harm the environment.

 

“I have to make sure of the data submitted to us. I have to make sure that the process and technology will be an environment-protecting one. I have to make sure that it will be good to the economy. And I have to be doubly sure that it will be good for Iloilo residents. Lahat ng ito nagpapatagal ng desisyon,” he said.

 

He also cited the economic benefits of the coal-fired power plant in considering the ECC application of GBPC.

 

“Coal-fired power plants are technologies that have given Europe and America a big advantage in world economy. You may not know it but 500 to 600 power plants in the US are run by coal that’s why their cost of electricity is very cheap,” he said.

 

Atienza said he also went abroad to study coal-fired power plant technologies, particularly the type being proposed by GBPC.

 

“I went all the way to Taipei on my own, not on the invitation of anyone, just to make sure that the technology that they are offering here works in Taipei. What I saw was impressive. There is a coal plant in an industrial zone producing microchips. The production of microchips requires a totally pollution-free surrounding. If the coal plant is polluting, all semi-conductor and microchip plants in the surroundings will close down. In short, there is such a thing as a pollution-free coal-fired power plant. If that is the technology that we are going to use in Iloilo, definitely I will be impressed. But if the technology does not pass our judgment, then we will not approve it,” he said.

 

The DENR secretary said he also heard the side of anti-coal groups who raised concerns on the perceived environmental effects of the project.  

 

As far as protecting the environment is concerned, we are one with all the advocates for environmental protection and those who are against this project. But as far as the welfare of our people is concerned, the national economy and the welfare of the Iloilo residents are concerned we are going to be on their side all the time. We will consider both sides – environmental protection and welfare of the Iloilo residents who are in bad need of additional power source,” he said.

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