An advocacy group on environmental stewardship has called on the incoming administration to prioritize the strengthening of power and telecommunications sector’s resilience to disasters, especially since these are crucial the country’s recovery.
“Tropical cyclone Agaton most recently showed how vulnerable our country is to weather events,” said Felix Vitangcol, co-convenor of the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship.
In a statement, Vitangcol pointed out that during typhoons, power supplies were being cut off, affecting even access to communication and connectivity services, and hindering recovery, relief, and rehabilitation efforts.
“As always, we manage to pull through. But this is not enough. The impact of the ever-changing climate on our communities will only get worse if we only react and not proactively build resilience for these extreme weather events,” he said.
Vitangcol said the government must take the lead in reforming policies and creating an environment conducive to such efforts.
“Specifically, our leaders must revisit the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA), Section 31 of Republic Act No. 9136, otherwise known as the Electric Power Industry Reform (EPIRA) Act of 2001. Currently, only electricity end-users consuming at least 100kW for the preceding twelve (12) months are allowed to participate in the program as a contestable market or those electricity end-users who have a choice of supplier of electricity including RE. Why not expand this provision?”
“The policy puts a threshold on the number of electricity end-users that can immediately transition to RE. Electricity end-users having low power consumption but having the capacity to transition to RE cannot do so,” he said.
He also said other power and RE laws such as the Republic Act No. 9513, otherwise known as the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, are too developer centric. Under Chapter VII of the law, the majority of the incentives are directed to developers with little left for electricity end-users who have the capability to establish RE sets in their facilities.
“PBEST believes that the government must do two key things here,” Vitangcol said. “First, the implementing rules and regulations of the RCOA should be amended accelerating the threshold timeline to 10 kW to 99 kW this year instead of waiting for another year to allow more industries and their infrastructures to enter and utilize RE.”
The second key step, according to him, is to encourage RE participation by restructuring incentives and expanding eligible entities to include corporations and electricity end-users who are also eyeing to utilize their own RE infrastructures.
Vitangcol cited the example set by Globe Telecom, which activated its facilities to provide internet connection to affected areas through its power modernization program of establishing RE generator sets.
“Aside from this, Globe also provided free data access to the website of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) for timely forecast and updates,” he said.