THE appointment of Regina Paz Lopez, a staunch anti-mining and anti-coal advocate, as Environment Department Secretary, could have detrimental effects on the country’s long term economic growth, especially on the lives of Filipinos in Mindanao, a consumer and advocacy group said over the weekend.
CitizenWatch expressed strong concern over the pronouncements of Lopez as these send an alarming message to the business sector and investors who are looking at Mindanao for badly needed, job-generating investments.
The group said Lopez’s views on these two issues contravene the current policy of the Energy Department and more so with the no “non-sense” development agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Wilford Wong, secretary-general of CitizenWatch said: “The NGO sees the Lopez’s appointment will peril economic development in Mindanao. Her statements run contrary to the growth agenda of the country and to the ideals of the newly inaugurated President Duterte.”
Lopez has long made public her views against coal-fired power plants.
CitizenWatch, however said, her stand, does not consider the complex dynamics on the ground. The Philippines’ growing economy needs reliable energy supply to continue on its phenomenal growth trajectory.
Mindanao, for example, only contributed 14.4 percent to the country’s gross domestic product in 2015 and one of the factors affecting growth in the region is the constant threat of power shortages due to the lack of power supply.
The region experienced rotating brownouts of up to 12 hours, especially during the summer months in the past years.
The private sector, in response built and continues to build power plants, many of them coal-fired- to meet the growing demands in the region.
CitizenWatch said that with Lopez leading the Environment Department, these projects, and the arrival of the needed power they will provide, could come to a halt.
Some pro-environmentalist groups have called on Lopez to halt coal power plants around the country in favor of renewable energy.
CitizenWatch said that they have overlooked the fact that coal fired plants produce much more energy per plant than solar or wind powered counterparts as they are intermittent.
The group also said that the unpredictable weather here can lead to extremely dry months leading to lower water levels, which in turn reduce the output of hydro based plants.
It said such conditions make hydro based plants unreliable as sources of base load generation needed to meet consumers’ and industries’ demands.
CitizenWatch said renewable energy is an ideal source of power but it is just too early in the country’s stage of development to presume that it can efficiently and viably replace coal in the energy mix.
CitizenWatch also said Lopez’s stand will not only effect long term growth, but it will also have almost immediate impact on Filipino consumers.
The group said the needed capital to shift to the more expensive renewable energy from coal is expected to lead to increased generation costs which could translate to higher electricity bills for consumers.
CitizenWatch said Filipino consumers around the country need affordable electricity that does not sap their already limited budget.
“We cannot go renewable all at once, we must follow a workable energy mix in our country. A good energy mix means a balance between traditional and renewable sources of energy,” the group said.
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