Cusi woos US firms to invest in geothermal, petroleum exploration in PH

After chiding the United States for technically snubbing the Philippines’ offer of energy investments, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi still tugged his way into courting American firms to pour in capital in geothermal as well as petroleum exploration projects being offered by the country.

“We are inviting investors in development in geothermal. It is an area that we would really like tapped, developed and the kind of power that we need and we’d like to see investors from the US doing 100-percent participation,” the energy chief stated in a virtual forum convened by the US Embassy in Manila to strengthen the economic ties of the newly installed Biden administration with the Philippine government.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi

The entry of US firms in the geothermal sector, Cusi noted, is being ushered in by a recent policy set forth by the government allowing full foreign ownership as long as these are done within the frame of Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA); and that the investors must inject minimum capital of US$50 million for geothermal resource exploration to be integrated with a power project.

Cusi nevertheless called the attention of the US companies that they have been conspicuously missing when it comes to investments in the energy sector – which the Philippine government sees as a frigid sentiment compared to the very robust interest being shown by their counterpart European investors.

“It is unfortunate that the US seems to have forgotten us, so I hope our American friends in the business community will again take a look at our new initiatives that aim to make the Philippines rife with many investment opportunities,” the energy chief asserted.

In response to Cusi’s ‘tough love approach’ on investment invitation, Gloria D. Steele, acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), sounded off that “we want to increase investments by the private sector in renewable energy in the Philippines.”

She added that the US government will be working next on a project in the energy industry that is “intended to provide advisory services to the government and the private sector.”

Aside from the country’s target of massive renewable energy (RE) installations that shall be underpinned by array of policies – including the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), net metering and the Green Energy Option Program (GEOP), Cusi is also opening investment doors to American companies in the oil and gas sector.

One venue that the US firms can flow in capital, he said, shall be via the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP) which is the investment enticement scheme for upstream petroleum ventures – including some blocks straddled by disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

“We’re still waiting for investments that would be coming from the United States in these areas,” the Philippine energy chief averred.

Cusi qualified that the PCECP for oil and gas exploration activities “is another promising investment undertaking that will facilitate the exploration and development of our indigenous energy resources, and revitalize our upstream oil and gas sector.”

With the petroleum blocks tendering already gaining traction, Cusi indicated that by end-December 2020, and “as a result of our strong promotional efforts, both locally and abroad, we received a total of fourteen (14) applications for nominated and new areas.”

He said the appetite of investors was somehow whetted after last year’s declaration of the Department of Energy (DOE) on the lifting of the petroleum exploration moratorium at the West Philippine Sea – that was a policy which shackled investments in the country’s disputed waters since 2013.

The moratorium reversal, according to Cusi, “augurs well for our economic recovery in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, given that the resumption of work would infuse our economy with fresh investments and help generate high-skill employment opportunities.”