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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Are we moving closer to energy security?

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With the onset of summer, it seems the perennial critics are at it again, with doomsday scenarios and dire predictions of energy shortfalls and power plant breakdowns amid soaring temperatures and the oppressive heat.

Of course, who would quarrel with the idea of energy conservation, which consumers should practice anyway whether we have ample power supply or woefully short of it.

Yet, self-proclaimed experts never tire of coming up with grim prophecies that do not quite reflect the reality on the ground.

The naysayers conveniently ignore the proactive leadership at the Department of Energy with Secretary Raphael “Popo” Lotilla at the helm and what he and his team are doing to achieve long-term energy security.

A close look at recent activities of the DOE would show that Lotilla is determined to ensure adequate supply of electricity for industries, offices and households.

But one significant accomplishment of Lotilla is his swift action on the Malampaya gas project, a major source of fuel for big power plants that supply the Luzon grid with enough juice to keep the economy running at full throttle.

The DOE approved late last year the transfer of operations of the Malampaya field to tycoon Enrique Razon’s Prime Infrastructure Capital Inc.

This was not only timely but crucial as well since it recognized the urgent need to keep the gas field running safely and at high levels of reliability even as it draws nearer the end of its shelf life.

The deal also demonstrated trust in the capability of the government’s new partner– the Razon-led Prime – to take on the challenge of large-scale projects.

“While the faultfinders keep making noises, let’s hope that the government does not take a step back to the 1990s when rotating brownouts of up to four hours brought the Philippine economy to its knees”

After all, as has been said, “the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

The new operator of Malampaya has shown unerring efficiency, a characteristic common in the Razon-led consortium’s other projects.

This has kept the gas field feeding demand for energy that is not only growing but also becoming more crucial in economic development.

The new Malampaya operator has tapped the reliable expertise of Filipinos who have been involved in its operations in the last 20 years.

More talented people are coming in to further beef up an already elite team, we’ve been told.

But, as they say, there’s no better gauge of good work than the testimonial of those in the know. Of Lotilla, Senate President Protempore Loren Legarda was spot-on when she described the DOE chief as a “man of high integrity.”

By the way, this is the second time that Lotilla has been tapped to head the DOE. He also served as Energy Secretary from 2005-2007 during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

When the DOE approved the transfer of Malampaya operations to the Razon-led consortium, the decision was not an impulsive one nor driven by guesswork.

It was done following due diligence and thorough consultations with technical, financial and legal experts noted for their objectivity.

The swift transfer reflected quick action that now characterizes the Marcos administration especially after the Chief Executive stressed the urgency of energy security and infrastructure development.

The emphasis on energy security not only impelled decisive action on the part of the DOE, but generated an unprecedented level of interest among foreign investors, another testament to the correctness of this direction.

But the usual suspects seem to be extremely dissatisfied with this turn of events, suggesting that government adopt what could be a retrograde step by taking over Malampaya operations.

What they failed to see is the reality that government could ill-afford the $200 million minimum expense of running the gas field and drilling new wells, a gargantuan cost that would most certainly be borne by taxpayers.

They also failed to see that the private sector, not to mention the Razon enterprise, has stronger financial muscle for this type of project.

Allowing private sector expertise to prevail has opened doors for major foreign investors to show keen interest in the project.

Moreover, they ignore the fact that no sovereign property is threatened as the government continues and will continue to own the Malampaya resources even as it allows the private sector to run it.

While the faultfinders keep making noises, let’s hope that the government does not take a step back to the 1990s when rotating brownouts of up to four hours brought the Philippine economy to its knees.

Instead, let’s all take a close look at what the current DOE leadership and its competent private partner are doing so we don’t have to travel back in time to that dark period when we had to grope our way out into the light – and can definitely look forward to brighter days ahead. (Email: enrhil@yahoo.com)

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