Power consumers and clean energy advocates on Tuesday expressed dismay at the absence of power sector plans in the country’s COVID-19 recovery pathway as pronounced in President Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Prior to SONA 2020, the Power for People Coalition (P4P) had been staunchly advocating for relief and reform programs as well as renewable energy development to aid the people’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis and transform the power sector for the better.
“We are disappointed that the President did not reaffirm his directive to the Department of Energy to reduce the country’s reliance on coal. There was no mention of a sanction on Secretary Al Cusi, whose ‘technology neutral’ approach was as an act of brazen disobedience to a direct presidential order,” said Gerry Arances, Convenor of P4P, in a statement.
Arances said that the Meralco billing shock during the Enhanced Community Quarantine was also left out from the address, despite it being a major blow for consumers already struggling to make ends meet.
“Power consumers all over the country are also certainly dissatisfied that, while the President did warn private electricity providers to serve end-users better, no satisfactory resolution was provided. There was no mention of Meralco’s bill shock, immediate power relief for consumers as they struggle with the economic dislocation caused by the pandemic, and the renegotiation of power supply agreements detrimental to consumers,” he said.
While P4P commended the President’s recognition of solar energy as a viable method of powering Last Mile schools, the group reiterated that solar and other forms of renewable energy provide the same kind of electricity produced by coal which we can power factories, homes, and offices even in major cities.
“The difference is that renewable energy also empowers consumers because it can reduce their dependence on the monopolistic grid, helps protect the environment, and costs less. In recognizing the power of renewable energy to deliver power where coal-based power can’t, we cannot understand why the President cannot make the logical conclusion that renewable energy can do more than coal to benefit the country’s recovery from Covid-19,” Arances said.
The energy advocate said that with only two years left in his term, President Duterte should not be dallying with urgent power sector reforms and the transition to sustainable sources, he said.
“There is no time for us to wait for him to realize on his own the contradictions inherent in choosing an expensive and polluting power source which he himself concedes cannot provide what the country needs while claiming that the responsible use of natural resources is one of his non-negotiables. The government cannot proclaim a new normal when it fails to make any real reforms to solve the problems of the old. The most that we would get is the old normal but with even graver consequences for the poor and the marginalized,” he said./Stacy Ang