Posted on

By Miguel Raymundo

In 2001, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) became a law, promising every Filipino that power supply will be efficient and less costly.

Thirteen years after, this year, and even in previous years, EPIRA has been proven to be anti-people and pro big money. This is one law that is proven to continually feed corporate greed.

Before EPIRA, the problem of electricity supply was getting worse every passing year. Many accused the former President Cory Aquino for causing, deliberate or not, the worsening power supply situation in the country.

The mother of President Benigno Aquino III, under a revolutionary government, shot down all plans and preparations by the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the power sector. The Bataan nuclear power plant never got off the ground, wasting billions of pesos in investments, including kickbacks to the former dictator and his agents.
EPIRA was supposed to be the answer and solution to the rising energy woes. Senator Francis Escudero, though, thinks otherwise.

“Epira has become a misnomer to its purpose. Instead of reforming the business environment to better service and improve delivery of supply and lower rates,… it has caused the government to lose control of the power industry,” Escudero said.

He pointed out that the Philippines holds the record of having the costliest electricity in the Asia. Cost of electricity in the Philippines is second highest in the world.

Why this has happened, that Epira resulted in Filipinos paying the most pricey cost of electricity in the world, did not come as an accident. This is a result of a deliberate plan of hijacking a law.

When the purpose of a law and the results in its implementation take different paths, this is not because the law is wrong, but because some powerful forces bend the law and get away with it. And these powerful forces think and act like they own the Philippines and the Filipinos.

So Epira, which was originally conceived as pro-people, ended up as anti-people. Every Filipino paying for the most expensive electricity is the victim of this hijacking of the law.

The sad part is, there is mechanism in our system that makes sure that the law is enforced so the people will truly benefit from its purpose. This mechanism is described as the oversight powers of congress. In the case of Epira, there is the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) co-chaired by Senator Sergio Osmeña and Rep. Reynaldo Umali.
JCPC was tasked to make sure that the law is followed and its intention served. The law was crafted to make sure that power supply was more than ample and the people pay lowest cost, competition being driver to lower prices.

Thirteen years after, we see why the purpose of the law has not been served, its intention waylaid by people mandated to protect it.

Senator Serge Osmeña could be one reason there is abundant abuse by the power players in the power sector. The senator from Cebu is suspect to be protecting the power players instead of the consumers.

Political observers say that the Filipino is just paying the price for electing this Senator Osmeña to the senate. And the price comes in tens of pesos for every kilowatt hour we pay for electricity.

Individually and in tens of pesos, the price we pay for having Osmeña in the senate is not much. Add them up into some total of millions of Meralco subscribers and billions of kilowatt-hours we consume every month, and you end up making these power companies richer by hundreds of billions if not trillions by this time, after a decade.

Sources in the power sector explains that “Osmeña is the chief praetorian guard of the power generation companies that call themselves independent power producers.”

Senator Serge Osmeña is married to the daughter of Albertito Lopez, Betina Mejia Lopez. The Lopez family owns power generation companies and formerly controlled Meralco, the biggest power distributor in the Philippines.
Osmeña indeed is the power players’ praetorian guard in the protection of their corporate greed. That he is so, has been made obvious in the latest move by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

In an unexpected move, everyone in the consumers’ advocacy groups was happily surprised, when ERC voided an earlier approved P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate increase in generation charges. For the first time, ERC takes a stand that at least embarrassed the big power players and, at most, cut down their greed.

Immediately, Osmeña came out fighting for Meralco, expressing disappointment and displeasure to the President. Stopping Meralco from collecting huge profits, Osmeña described, “was good politics, but bad economics.”

In a fit of rage, he accused the Department of Energy head as an “awful manager”. He promised to block the DOE secretary’s confirmation in the Commission of Appointments. And Osmeña keeps his promise.

The act of ERC in stopping Meralco from collecting those huge profits was in accordance to its mandate, written in the Epira.

This senator is a little confused, or are we? Escudero wants to amend the Epira. But Osmeña says Epira is a good law. However, when ERC followed the law, Osmeña raises hell.

That Epira has lost its reason and purpose for the people cannot be more evident by the growing call for its abolition and the rising demand to nationalize power generation and distribution.

“This is a heartless government. There is massive poverty, 75% of the Filipinos live below the poverty line, yet cost of electricity is most expensive in the world,” lawyer Rey Cardeno, a consumer advocate, said.

According to Cardeno, when cost of electricity is high, everything else becomes very expensive. The time has come to nationalize the power sector and all basic services and utilities.

Privatization has not worked for the people’s good. Privatization has served only to create ten more billionaires and tens of millions more hungrier Filipinos.

Cardeno and his groups will push for the abolition of Epira as being anti-people and pro corporate greed.

Ties That Bind

Posted on

Ex-Im Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working-capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

In what could be a landmark deal, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has signed a US$1 billion energy-based memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Philippines’ Department of Energy (DOE).

Specifically, the MOU targets renewable-energy and liquefied natural gas projects in hopes of upgrading and expanding the Philippine energy supply as part of US-Philippines bilateral cooperation.

“The arrangement is a win-win for both our nations and evidences our deep ties and cooperation on numerous economic fronts,” Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg said in a statement released by the US embassy in Manila.

The MOU was signed recently in Washington, DC by Ex-Im Bank board director Patricia Loui and DOE undersecretary Raul B. Aguilos.

Under the MOU, Ex-Im Bank and the DOE will exchange information with an eye to matching development needs in the Philippines with innovative goods and services offered by American exporters.

Financing Mechanism

Since 1993, Ex-Im Bank provided US$1.3 billion in energy-sector finance to the Philippines.

“We aim to outdo ourselves and target another billion with this memorandum of understanding,” Loui said.

“Our expertise can contribute both to the renovation of current energy-production facilities and the construction of new ones,” she added.

In 1994, Ex-Im Bank financed the first project-finance transactions in the Philippines for geothermal energy – the Cebu geothermal, US$170 million; and the Mahanagdong geothermal project, also in Cebu, US$211 million.

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that creates and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers.

The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working-capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.


In the past fiscal year alone, Ex-Im Bank earned for U.S. taxpayers more than US$1 billion above the cost of operations.

In FY 2013, Ex-Im Bank approved more than US$27 billion in total authorizations to support an estimated $37.4 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 205,000 American jobs in communities across the country.

This year, the Bank approved a record 3,413 transactions– or 89 percent–for small-businesses.

The Ex-Im DOE deal is in line with the U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Growth (PPG), program.

The highly innovative program, which resulted from US President Obama’s September 2010 policy directive on global development, is a high-level initiative focused on economic growth in countries committed to good governance.

In the Philippines, the PPG aligns with policy reform areas outlined by President Aquino in the Philippine Development Plan.

Beyond Traditional

Under the plan, the US has committed to placing the Philippines on a path to sustained and more inclusive economic growth, and elevating it to the ranks of other high-performing emerging economies.

As envisioned, the US-backed PPG takes a comprehensive approach to development that reaches beyond traditional foreign assistance.

It also aims to address the most significant constraints to growth and to stimulate inclusive economic expansion. A joint analysis identified governance and inability to capture revenue as the top constraints to growth in the Philippines.

The PPG leverages the resources and tools of partners, especially the private sector, to increase the effectiveness of policies and institutions necessary for development.

USAID and Millennium Challenge Corporation provides more than US$800 million funding over five years to support PPG projects.

The U.S.-Philippines five-year Joint Country Action Plan prioritized the creation of a more transparent, predictable, and consistent legal and regulatory regime.

Similarly, it seeks to foster a more open and competitive business environment, strengthen the rule of law and support fiscal stability through better revenue and expenditure management.

The U.S. government has committed to a sustained inter-agency engagement in support of the PPG’s goal and objectives.

Since2011, the Philippine government has made significant progress in implementing policy and institutional reforms.

It has also achieved remarkable improvements in economic growth, competitiveness, tax revenues, and sovereign debt ranking to ensure that the growth generated is inclusive and sustainable.

Conserve Energy, Doe Asks Public

Posted on

Agency issues power-saving tips

AS part of its campaign to promote energy security, the Department of Energy (DOE) has asked the consumers to use fuels and electricity judiciously, especially in summer months when demand will be high.

Some simple household energy-saving tips are posted on the DOE website and important, the DOE is also encouraging consumer to buy products that carry an energy label. Yellow energy labels are mandatory on household air conditioners (except inverter type), household refrigerators (size range: 5-8 cubic feet), compact fluorescent lamps (self-ballasted), linear fluorescent lamps, circular fluorescent lamps and ballasts.

To reduce electricity bills associated with cooling homes, look for a high Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) when buying a new air conditioning unit. EER refers to the cooling efficiency of the unit.For refrigerators and freezers, the yellow energy guide bears the Energy Efficiency Factor (EEF) of the unit.

The higher the energy efficiency rating, the lower the energy consumption.For fluorescent lamps, the energy label indicates the light output in lumens, power consumption, lamp efficacy and average life. More lumens mean more light output. The higher the efficacy rating, the lower is the energy consumption.The safety tests, on the other hand, are being administered by the Bureau of Product Standards of the Department of Trade and Industry.

In addition, the DOE has established state-of-the-art laboratory facilities for performance testing of television sets, washing machines, refrigerators, and freezers through the assistance of the Asian Development Bank.

The DOE has envisioned that with the stakeholders’ cooperation, integrating energy efficiency will significantly help in achieving energy security, optimal energy pricing, and a sustainable energy plan for the country.

The DOE also warned the public against false claims of some companies that their products, when attached to electrical appliances or lighting products, can reduce energy consumption.

In its statement, the DOE has emphasized that it is not endorsing uncertified “energy saving” devices for use by consumers.These devices should undergo testing using the acceptable technology verification protocol to prove claims regarding the functional performance of such devices, it said.

“We do acknowledge the inventors’ ingenuity in coming up with such energy-saving devices, but we hope their products are really energy-savers so we can help the people reduce their energy consumption and thus save money, particularly at this time when the supply and cost of electricity have stirred public concern,” DOE Undersecretary Loreta G. Ayson said.

She added the government continues to monitor the energy performance of appliances and lighting products covered by the energy standards and labeling program through laboratory tests.

It added that consumers should be extra cautious in purchasing energy-saving devices and consult with the DOE-Consumer Welfare and Promotions Office through the following: Text: 0917-581-2925/Call: 840-2267/Tweet: @doe_ph before making any purchase.

Eco-Group Urges End to Fossil Fuel Investments

Posted on

A climate crisis that risks peace and security can still be avoided by accelerating the clean energy revolution, Greenpeace said on Tuesday.

Issuing an SOS emergency alert ahead of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Japan, Greenpeace warned that climate change is already devastating nations, destroying lives and costing billions of dollars in damage.

“This is a crisis that knows no boundaries. Our climate is on the precipice and every ton of oil, coal and gas we are digging up and burning pushes us closer to the brink,” said Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace International campaigner. “But there’s a way out of this mess. Renewable energy has made a breakthrough faster than thought and is ready to challenge our old hazardous energy system.”

Greenpeace activists yesterday displayed the message ‘Climate SOS – Go Renewables’ outside the J-POWER’s Isogo 1 & 2 coal power plant and Tepco’s Minami Yokohama gas power plant near where the IPCC meeting in Yokohama to highlight the cause of climate change and the solution to the unfolding crisis.

Meeting to finalize the Working Group II report on ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’, the IPCC will discuss climate action in the context of sustainable development. The Japanese government, which is hosting this week’s meeting, is failing to meet the IPCC’s challenge.

“With IPCC’s scheduled release of this timely report, the dire scenario is no longer a threat from a distant future.  In fact, it is already happening in many countries- the Philippines in particular and across Southeast Asia which is among the most vulnerable yet least prepared to deal with climate change impacts,” said Amalie Obusan, Regional Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia and a delegate to the climate talks in Japan.  “When super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last November, it claimed thousands of lives and left trail of destruction that will take several years to rebuild.  We urge world leaders to recognize what scientists all over the world have been saying: to act on genuine positive solutions to climate change.”

Greenpeace says coal burning is the biggest single driver of climate change. But coal has a massive water footprint too, making it one of the largest threats to water security, add to that the air pollution problem making it clear that a move away from coal is inevitable and in fact has already started.

“While the IPCC report will make grim reading, the key message here is choice. Will we continue drifting from one disaster to another, or will we take control of our future? We’re at a crossroads and the choices we make now will determine how history judges us. To make the shift away from coal and other fossil fuels fast enough though is a key fight that communities, decision-makers and investors have to unite on,” added Kosonen.

Japan has lowered its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it is also emerging as the world’s biggest public investor of coal expansion overseas. Now it is planning a return to nuclear energy despite the ongoing Fukushima disaster. (Greenpeace Philippines)

Expo Autoworld Brussels 2

Posted on

Electric and Amphibious Cars

By Jun-Jun Junia

AFTER seeing a jeepney and seeing lots of old cars inside the AUTOWORLD Expo, it made me realize that I’m inside a vintage car museum. Now that made it more interesting. It’s car heaven.

There is one nook that caught our attention. It was a selection of different car models from vintage-looking to futuristic-designed vehicles. As we went closer to the area, there was a sign that read “EVOLUTION OF ECO CARS” and there I saw, in the corner, a 1916 Detroit Electric.

1916 Detroit Electric

Yes, you read it right, there was an electric vehicle (EV) during those times. I’m not sure if it was running but the body is in perfect shape. This EV was popularly sold in the 1910’s, selling around 1000 to 2000 cars a year.

The Detroit Electric was mainly sold to women drivers and physicians, as this car starts immediately without the physically demanding hand cracking of the engine that was needed with early internal combustion engine vehicles. They outsold all other types of cars since they did not have the vibration, smell, and noise associated with gasoline cars.

Autoworld2 for web

The question is, what happened to them? In my research, I learned that in the 1920s, internal combustion engine autos became more common and inexpensive, sales of the Electric dropped. The stock market crash of 1929 forced the company to file for bankruptcy. Detroit Electric cars were available only until 1942.

Amphibious Car

Of course we all know that now, electric is in again due to imminent environmental concerns that made car manufacturers develop hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles. So car manufacturers went back developing electric vehicles after all, to eliminate emissions and save the world.

Amphibious Car Propeller

Going to the second floor of the museum, we saw a car displayed near the stairs. It blew our minds away. We thought this type of car was only intended for films, perfect for a spy movie. It’s a 1950 Amphicar, a real amphibious car which can be driven into water and converts into a boat. Just like in the movies! I’m amazed with the design of this car.
At the back, underneath the car, near the location of the muffler, was a propeller. The propeller is sealed and there was no muffler in the area, meaning this can really be converted into a speed boat. Amazing! Looking at this car reminded me of the floods in our country.

I guess this car design is the answer to the flood prone areas in the Philippines since heavy rainfall nowadays causes chest deep waters, or sometimes even worse. Imagine if you have an amphibian car when it’s raining hard and you need to go to work…have nothing to fear, amphibian car to the rescue! You don’t have to be afraid of parking your car in flooded parking areas, all you need is an anchor.

Overall AUTOWORLD is a big car museum with over 300 interesting vintage cars on display. From an 1890s three-wheeled car to a recent electric one, race cars from the 60’s to 90’s with Formula 3 and formula 1 cars, to add, some vintage motorbikes and royal carriages were included as well. The place was really a car lover’s paradise!