Almendras, Petilla to regularly meet about energy issues

MANILA, Philippines - The former and current chief of the crucial Department of Energy will be meeting regularly to discuss the sector's various complex issues.

At a turnover ceremony on Monday, November 12, former energy chief Jose Rene Almendras, who bid farewell to his former DOE employees, said in a speech that his new position as Secretary to the Cabinet will still allow him to discuss energy-related issues with recently appointed Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla.

Petilla, in turn, has committed to continue his predecessor's strategies, particularly in pushing for reasonably-priced electricity and addressing power supply issues, particularly in Mindanao region. Petilla shared that Almendras has made ways of inviting a lot of power players.

As a vote of confidence, Almendras told the DOE staff in the audience that Petilla is aware of the issues in the energy sector.

"The turnover went really well. His briefings with all the departments and attached agencies, came out also well," he said, referring to the recent meetings Petilla had with industry stakeholder groups.

Petilla said fuel pricing will remain a perennial issue his department will face, as well as encouraging more investors to build power plants.

Power investors, electric cooperatives

"The fastest [time it will take] to build [a power plant is] 3 years. And investors also have to be assured that they're going to be paid when they produce. At the same time, existing players are [fearful] that they might not also get paid if they build new power plants," he said.

He was referring to some of the electric cooperatives who have raked in billions of unpaid power sourced from the grid.

"We want to set up an environment conducive to investors. We have to show these investors that electric cooperatives are professional and are functioning very well," he said.

Petilla's plans to address these payment issues include a metric system that would gauge the performance of distribution utilities and electric cooperatives. He said these metrics will be available to the public to promote responsibility and accountability.

"We will make it known to all which of the electric cooperatives, for instance, perform and collect efficiently, and which cooperatives are inefficient," he said.

Long-term solutions

For the Mindanao power supply shortfall, Petilla said long-term solutions and planning are key.

He said he will assess the different solutions proposed for Mindanao, particularly the solutions that have been laid out during term of his predecessor.

Petilla said he needs to see which of the plans could be immediately implemented. - Rappler.com