Mr. President, dear colleagues, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege to update this esteemed body on contemporary issues facing the Philippine energy sector.
In July and August, the country’s precarious energy situation caught the attention of the general public as persistent red and yellow alerts caused Luzon-wide rotating brownouts. Because of this, one of my first acts as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy was to act on Senate Resolution No. 74, filed by our distinguished colleague, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, by conducting an investigation into these power interruptions, which were estimated to cost as much as P3.3B in economic losses per hour! It became apparent during the investigation, Mr. President, that to serve the needs of our growing economy, it would be imperative to build an adequate power supply.
Thus, it became one of my priorities, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, to collaborate with public and private stakeholders of the energy sector in laying down the blueprint for establishing the right energy mix for the Philippines. Simply put, my vision is to build an energy supply founded upon the principle of “3S” – a stable energy supply which provides sulit, or affordable energy to consumers while ensuring environmental sustainability.
In furtherance of this vision, Mr. President, the Senate Energy Committee has undertaken extensive consultative hearings with industry stakeholders to identify prevailing issues and craft solutions to the problems facing our energy sector.
We started off these consultations by inviting the Department of Energy family to brief us on its mandates and plans of action. Certainly, as the foremost government agency directing Philippine energy policy, the DoE will play a critical role in deciding our country’s energy future. However, the DoE cannot do it alone. As legislators, we must take our oversight functions seriously, to make sure that the DoE and its attached agencies are performing their duties with the highest levels of competence and responsiveness. Additionally, the Senate must be ready to quickly pass legislation to clear roadblocks in existing laws which continue to hinder progress in the energy sector.
Mr. President, the next series of hearings involved the stakeholders of the upstream and downstream oil and gas industries. There, we discussed issues such as the nearing expiration of the Malampaya service contract and the pending depletion of the Malampaya Gas Field – one of Luzon’s primary power sources – as well as the potential of establishing a liquified natural gas infrastructure to better serve our energy needs.
In the coming months, we will need to further discuss the prospects of our oil and gas industries in relation to the exploration of the West Philippine Sea, where abundant energy resources sit untapped beneath contested waters. Indeed, it could be said that the mid-term prospects of reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources will be decided by how the current administration handles the continuing dispute in the West Philippine Sea. Personally, I hope that this administration’s emerging independent foreign policy agenda will also serve as a catalyst for achieving Philippine energy independence, by vigorously upholding and defending our exclusive sovereign rights to explore and develop resources in the West Philippine Sea.
Our next task, Mr. President, was to discuss challenges facing the Renewable Energy sub-sector concerning the Feed-inTariff, net metering policy, and other issues related to the implementation of the Renewable Energy Law. Truly, the sustainability of our energy supply is closely tied with the development of expanded clean energy projects which will help the Philippines reduce its carbon footprint as we strive to fulfill our commitment to preserve the environment. In this context, we must renew our efforts to fully implement the Renewable Energy Law.
Lastly, but certainly not least, Mr. President, we invited stakeholders to discuss the state of our power sector. From this discussion, it became clear that our electricity supply is nowhere near as stable as it needs to be. This instability, if allowed to continue, will dampen the Philippine economy’s robust growth outlook. Apparently, one of the causes of continuing instability is our woefully inadequate transmission grid which keeps excess power trapped, away from where it is needed. There is a great need to formulate and implement a new Transmission Development Plan which will close the loop once and for all through an Integrated National Power Grid connecting Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. To be continued