If the country intends to become more resilient to disasters, a serious improvement in its energy sectors is required, according to a consumer advocacy group.
This much needed boost would also help the Philippines recover from the pandemic, and take the country to a new level of growth and digital transformation, CitizenWatch Philippines said.
“Breakdowns of power grids are not merely an inconvenience,” Orlando Oxales, convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines said.
“These are economically devastating to all individual and enterprise consumers,” he added.
He mentioned that the sector’s vulnerability was emphasized greatly with the aftermath of Typhoon Odette as power and telecommunication services broke down and struggled to restore services.
Oxales also cited the country’s high electricity cost as one of the many problems hounding the energy sector, apart from post-disaster operations. He said that it is deemed as one of the highest in Southeast Asia.
He mentioned that the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, in a March 2019 report, said costs here hovered at around P10 per kilowatt hour, driven by excessive reliance on imported coal and diesel.
“Electricity rates in the regions serviced by cooperatives are substantially higher than rates in the National Capital Region,” he added.
He stated that it’s an economic disadvantage that needs to be addressed by the government, through long-term solutions in tandem with industry players including power cooperatives.
Lastly, Oxales said that some areas still have no access to electricity.
According to him, in December 2020, the National Electrification administration reported that around 12,467 sitios across the country still have no electricity. The following month, the Department of Energy said there remained 1.62 million households across the country without access to power.
The group’s Co-convenor, Atty Tim Abejo for his part said the “recovery from this crisis and sustaining economic growth depends on how fast the power and energy sector will be able to meet the growing demand for stable and affordable electricity.”
He mentioned that more needs to be done to accelerate the building of more base load power plants and develop indigenous sources of energy to move our power situation from borderline deficiency to surplus.
“Energy resilience is more than minimizing power outages, it is a matter of national security,” he added.