BIZ BUZZ: Painful goodbye
Pilots, cabin crew and ground staff number among those who cheered the appointment of one of their own, Capt. Stanley Ng, as the officer-in-charge of flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL).
But not everyone is happy about the ascension of Ng from senior vice president for airline operations to president and chief operating officer and the replacement of former top executive Gilbert Santa Maria, who steered the airline through the COVID-19 pandemic, easily the worst turbulence to hit the airline’s 81-year history.
Bankers, suppliers and fund managers, for example, have expressed concern over the timing of the change of command considering that the airline had just successfully come out of Chapter 11 proceedings in New York, allowing PAL to continue operations with a lighter debt load and more capital.
They believe that stability is what is badly needed at this time, not another major change at the airlines, especially as mobility restrictions are being eased and more passengers are being allowed to travel here and abroad.
Plus, while Ng, a son-in-law of tycoon Lucio Tan, is also widely considered to have the credentials and background necessary to keep PAL in the skies, what has made other stakeholders jittery is the abrupt nature of Santa Maria’s departure, supposedly brought about by his often brash style of management that rubbed certain people the wrong way.
No surprise then that the professional managers of the other units of the sprawling Lucio Tan group are on edge, as the message they are getting is that they better toe the line and play nice or else their head will be next on the chopping block.
Word is that a few of these top executives are already in the predeparture lounge, so to speak, just waiting for their number to be called. As to who they are, we will know here soon enough. Abangan!
Ending PH coal dependence
Not a few power generation companies in the Philippine were worried after Indonesia earlier banned coal exports due to dangerously low inventory levels for their own local use.
Although that ban has since been eased, it exposed how vulnerable the Philippines is to supply disruptions, given that coal is one of the main sources of power for the country—a situation that could have dire consequences on the economy should such a problem recur.
According to government data, almost 70 percent of the 42.5 million tons of Philippine coal supply in 2020 was imported. Power generated by coal comprises about 60 percent of the country’s power mix, and in 2021 the country sourced 2.3 million tons per month from Indonesia to fuel its power plants, the energy department said.
One company trying to remedy this situation is Energy World Corp. (EWC) which is in the process of having its liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility hooked up to the transmission grid. The plan calls for EWC to piggyback on the existing transmission lines with the government’s support.
Unfortunately for the company, it’s not getting the kind of support it needs and word is that the Department of Energy is lukewarm to the project.
To make matters worse, we hear the project is being opposed by one other power generation firm, Team Energy, which is, incidentally, using coal to generate electricity.
This EWC project has had to hurdle protracted bureaucratic red tape and the cold shoulder from government agencies tasked to ensure stability in the country’s energy mix.
The company is now building its own transmission line and switching station in order to connect the plant to the main grid. Once operational, EWC intends to install a 200 megawatt steam turbine. Similarly, the final stages of development of its LNG facility are on track.
So the question now is … will EWC’s project of generating power with LNG—which has a dramatically lower carbon footprint that coal—finally progress, or will government agencies continue to make like difficult for it? Watch this space, folks.
—Daxim L. Lucas
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