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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.

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