Gov’t eyes Asean power projects
The Philippine government has started preliminary talks with its neighbors on plans to participate in a regional energy integration through two significant projects in the pipeline—the Asean Power Grid and the Trans-Asean Pipeline Project.
Although there remains a lot of infrastructure, regulatory and political hurdles, it is believed that the Philippines stands to gain from a regional integration by way of increased energy security and stability.
According to Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras, energy connectivity within the region was one of the issues tackled during the 20th Asean Summit held recently in Cambodia.
“I basically explained the Asean interconnectivity plans. There was a lot of interest about investment opportunities in the Asean. It was a very good opportunity for me to explain the Asean ambition for an Asean Power Grid, which is supposed to interconnect the countries that can export electricity to countries that need to buy electricity,” Almendras explained.
The Philippines’ participation in the project, however, will be contingent on Malaysia’s decision as to whether it will connect Malaysia-Borneo to the Western Malaysia-Kuala Lumpur area. If these two areas are connected, the Philippines may be able to join through an undersea cable from Borneo to Palawan.
“Our view is that we will not join just to join. We must provide a viable option for us if we’re going to spend resources to build these infrastructure initiatives,” Almendras stressed.
The energy chief pointed out that in other countries, the initial undertakings of the APG could already be seen with Malaysia exporting electricity to Thailand and Vietnam. APG, he added, became very relevant to a country like Singapore, which is an island state that may not be able to host large power facilities due to lack of available land.
However, regulatory, political and pricing issues have yet to be settled before the APG can be fully implemented across neighboring countries in the region.
Meanwhile, Almendras said the energy ministers also discussed the Trans-Asean Pipeline Project, which may allow for easier and cost-effective ways to transport gas across the region.
“We discussed why the participation of the private sector and the non-Asean countries is critical because there is both the regulatory and technical and financial challenge to get that goal,” he noted.
According to Almendras, among the countries highly interested in the pipeline project was Indonesia, which expects to produce “a lot of gas by 2016, so they are also interested in finding ways to sell their gas.”
“We [in the Philippines] are also interested in that discussion because we know that natural gas is the way to go. If we can access Indonesian gas through the pipeline, [that will secure us with supply]. Originally, the Philippines was not included in the plan because we’re quite far. But Indonesia recommended talks with Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines to interconnect. If ever, we will connect through Palawan also,” Almendras explained.
“With a growing power demand, we need to explore many sources of fuel that we need. We’re saying, eventually, hydrocarbon supply is finite so we need to look for alternatives. We should start looking at the alternatives,” he added.
The Philippine government has since been pushing for the use of alternative fuels like natural gas as this can help address spiraling fuel prices in the long run, the expected diminishing of petroleum supply as well as the looming environmental problems such as climate change.
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