Tackling the energy problem

By Herbert Vego

“We are still the cheapest distribution utility in the Philippines.”

That was how Ms. Maricel C. Pe – assistant vice president for customer care of MORE Electric and Power Corp. – answered our question on why the company would succeed in expanding its franchise from Iloilo City to Passi City and 15 municipalities of Iloilo province in accordance with a new law, RA 11918.

In effect, MORE Power would compete for customers with the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO). We know for a fact that since its inception as a distribution utility, it has been charging rates much lower than any of the three branches of ILECO.

The lady executive, however, would not predict how electricity bills would shape up in relation to runaway inflation and the Philippine peso’s devaluation against the US dollar, which is now P57 to $1.

“Everything seems to be going up these days,” a newspaper quoted Mayor Jerry Treñas. “I hope MORE continues to source power from generators with low costs.”

The mayor knows that a distribution utility does not generate power but buys it from the generating utilities. MORE Power, however, has the advantage of “diving” for the lowest cost through a system known as competitive selection process (CSP). “Timing” is of the essence because of continually fluctuating prices.

Moreover, MORE Power has the advantage of having Roel Z. Castro as its president and chief executive officer. During the launching of a coffee-table book on the 75th anniversary of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV), he told his audience. “I would always strive to maintain the lowest possible price.”

Castro, after all, is no stranger to the energy industry. Until his transfer to MORE Power, he had been president of Palm Concepcion Power Corporation, the 135-megawatt coal-fired power plant built at Concepcion, Iloilo. He had also worked for Palm Thermal Consolidated Holdings Corp., Peakpower Energy Inc., Hydro Link Power Corp. and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

And MORE Power being a subsidiary of Prime Infrastructure Holdings Inc., there is no reason why it could not survive and thrive. Prime is the flagship company of billionaire Enrique K. Razon, the third richest businessman in the Philippines with a net worth of US $5.6 billion, or Php 319.2 billion.

Prime has successfully sunk an investment of P10.7 billion for a 25-percent stake or 820 million common shares in Manila Water Co., the water distributor serving the east zone of Metro Manila.

Prime’s current focus is on construction of solar farms and solar battery facilities in an effort to attract international investors who may take advantage of its planned US $449.2 million initial public offering (IPO) aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy to 50% by 2040. The IPO package also includes a 1,400-megawatt hydropower plant at Laguna de Bay. The first of its kind for the Philippines’ renewable market, this venture would reduce our dependence on expensive oil and coal.

Eh di wow!



MOST shocking was yesterday’s news on Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez announcing that, henceforth, he would no longer attend the Senate inquiry into the alleged “illegal” resolution issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar. The reason was because his boss had ordered him to shy away.

Since the “boss” is no less than President Ferdinand “BBM” Marcos Jr., we can’t help but suspect that some kind of irregularity is being swept under the rug. And he does not trust Rodriguez to fend off certain senators’ probing questions and insinuations.

Rodriguez said he would only answer the questions of the Blue-Ribbon Committee in writing.

This development reminds us of the previous administration when former President Duterte, too, had emboldened his Cabinet to boycott Senate inquiries.

No good for BBM who is also known as “the son of a dictator” who had ruled by martial law. If he intends to follow the footsteps of his dad, he might as well expect an unhappy ending of his reign.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, of course, did the right thing in warning Rodriguez not to disrespect the
Senate.  Otherwise, he would be issued a subpoena compelling him to attend the hearings, at least via Zoom.

Senate President Migz Zubiri and the entire Senate should rally behind the lady colleague if only to remind BBM that the body is a co-equal of the President.