Escudero favors all options in developing a long-term energy agenda

Published January 24, 2022, 11:36 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senatorial aspirant Francis ‘’Chiz’’ Escudero on Monday, Jan. 24 said he is in favor of pursuing all options in developing a long-term energy agenda to ensure that the country gets the best suitable, sustainable and safest source of power that is responsive to the future energy landscape of the Philippines.

The Sorsogon governor told a senatorial forum Sunday night that tapping all possible power sources, including nuclear energy, should be considered to attain energy sufficiency and security, but without compromising public safety and adding financial burden to the Filipino people who would ultimately shoulder the cost.

“Neutral ako sa teknolohiya (I have a neutral position on technology). Technology neutral pero ang importante lamang na ligtas ito, kayang bayaran ang sambayanang Pilipino at makakatugon sa problema, sa krisis, enerhiya ng ating bansa (Technology neutral but the important thing is it should be safe, consumers can pay and can address the energy crisis of the country),” Escudero pointed out, when asked if he favored the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

The veteran legislator, however, said the use nuclear energy should not be limited to the existing mothballed BNPP, as other options might be explored, including building a new facility if it is found to be safe and beneficial to the people.

“Kailangan ang opinyon ng eksperto kung mas maganda nga bang magtayo ng bago o i-rehabilitate pa yung nakatayong Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (We need an expert opinion if it is better to build a new one or rehabilitate the BNPP). Alin ba ang mas mura (Which is cheaper?). Alin ba ang mas ligtas? (Which is safer?) Alin ba ang mas abot-kaya para sa ating mga kababayan? (Which is more affordable to our countrymen?),’’ Escudero asked.

“Hindi natin dapat limitahan sa partikular na opinyon o diskriminasyon ang puwedeng pagkukunan natin ng kuryente (We should not be limited to a particular opinion or discriminate against other alternative sources),’’ Nitong nagdaang limang taon walang dagdag na kapasidad sa generating capacity ng bansa (We do not have added capacities during the past five years),” he stressed.

The failure of the government to build power plants and add new generating capacity to the grid for half a decade is a major contributor to the current state of the country’s energy situation, Escudero lamented.

“Pasalamat nga tayo dahil mahina pa ang takbo ng ating ekonomiya dahil sa pandemya (We should be thankful that the pace of our economy is slow due to the pandemic). Pero sa unti-unting pagbubukas ng ekonomiya ng Pilipinas at ng mundo, sa unti-unting paggulong ng ekonomiya pagkatapos ng pandemya, darating ang panahon na mangangailangan tayo ng higit pa sa kuryenteng mayroon tayo ngayon (But we need more power as the economy is slowly improving,’’ he said.

Data from the Department of Energy (DOE) showed that power consumption across the country dropped by 4.04 percent to 101,756 gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2020, largely due to the Luzon-wide lockdown that shut down business operations in the region. In contrast, residential consumption jumped to 34,292 GWh from 2019’s 30,552 GWh as most were forced to stay at home.

With the reopening of the economy and more sectors back in business, the DOE expects a higher demand for electricity and oil this year.

Escudero said the next administration should also prepare a solid backup plan with the projected depletion of the Malampaya gas field off Palawan in 2027 to avert an energy crisis.

Malampaya is the country’s lone significant source of oil and gas supply, which provides 30 percent of the power requirement of Luzon, or 20 percent of the country’s total electricity requirement.

“Umaabot ng apat hanggang limang taon mula mag-financial cost bago matapos ang isang planta na magbibigay sa atin ng bagong energy sources (A new power plant requires four to five years from the financial cost start-up to its completion before it could deliver electric power). Kaya ngayon pa lamang kung ang tinatayang shortage ay mangyayari sa taong 2027, ang bagong pangulo ay dapat tutukan ang pagkakaroon ng mga bagong planta upang sa gayon bago pa man dumating ang pagkukulang ng kuryente ay mayroon na tayong pagkukunan ng panibagong source (As the expected power shortage will take place in 2027, the new President should focus in the construction of new power plants),’’ Escudero said.