Petilla meets with energy stakeholders for 'crash course'

MANILA, Philippines - Newly appointed Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said he will meet with industry stakeholders for a week-long "crash course" on energy issues.

In his first briefing with reporters on November 6, Petilla said he will try to learn all the complex aspects of the crucial Department of Energy (DOE), including supply-demand dynamics in the power sector, explorations and bidding of energy blocs, renewable energy, fuel costs, and self-sufficiency issues.

Petilla said his marching order from President Aquino is to stabilize electricity supply, make it affordable in the long run, and continue where former Energy Secretary Rene Almendras took off.

While Petilla refused to make promises to bring down power prices, he said he will find ways to make electricity affordable to consumers.

"I don't want to give you a timeframe, I'll take it on my own pace and I have a fast pace," he highlighted.

He said his ultimate target as energy chief is to come up with long-term energy roadmap that will go beyond the term of any president or energy secretary.

"I want the system to work rather than myself…energy should never be personality-based," Petilla said, adding that he is more of a "behind the scenes" type of leader.

He shared that he was warned that being energy chief is a "stressful and thankless job," but stressed that his experience in both corporate world and politics will come in handy.

"If you are given a position by the President, who are you to say no?" he shared.

Below are some of his replies regarding different issues his office is in-charge of: 
 

He said he welcomes foreign investors as long as power projects are sustainable and will yield lower prices.

To make energy projects sustainable, "there has to be a little bit of profit," he noted.

On the contracts to explore energy blocs awarded during the term of his predecessors, he said there is no reason to review these unless there are questions raised.

He said he would rather focus on pending applications for energy explorations.
 

"We cant do anything about rising fuel prices because of the deregulated regime. We will seek other avenues where DOE can come in," he said, referring to the usual complaints from transport groups.

He said the most pressing task of DOE is to properly monitor, and analyze if pricing is right.

He added there should be monitoring or an anti-trust bill to prevent oil companies from conniving with each other.

"Nobody wants to know why [prices are] high or low. They just want it low," he said, referring to complaints from consumers on fuel prices.
 

"We have to keep a balance of what we can afford and what the environment can afford," he replied when asked about balancing coal and renewable sources.

Too much renewables in the power supply mix "would jack up electricity rates," he said.

Petilla admits he is biased towards geothermal power generation. His home province, Leyte, hosts one of the country's largest geothermal operations.
 

He said the department will take cue from the President since the issue is not just about energy sources and investment sources but also about sovereign and diplomatic issues with, in this case, China.

"We come in [only] on the technical side," he said.

On indigenous natural gas sources, like Malampaya and soon, the Sampaguita field in the Reed Bank off Palawan, Petilla acknowledged that it as one of the cleanest forms of power, but "we just don't know where we will get them on sustainable basis."
 

He said he is willing to sit down to discuss potential value of nuclear and not condemn it outright.

He said these discussions about nuclear power may not necessarily mean constructing a nuclear plant, but just to open discussions about the advantages and risks of having a nuclear facility.
 

On the Mindanao power crisis, Petilla said some compromises will have to be made to solve the problem.

He said cooperatives and power generators will have to agree on how to maximize optimal power for Mindanao consumers.

He also acknowledged that the blackouts and intermittent power supply may be a factor in the 2013 elections.
 

He said the department's undersecretaries and directors are allowed to speak with media as long as they have prior approval "to ensure that we're in sync."

"I'm accessible except if i'm in the middle of speech, meetings," he said. - Rappler.com