In view of the brownouts that have been hitting some parts of the country, Senator Richard J. Gordon has pressed the Department of Energy (DOE) to prepare for a looming power gap that the recurring power outages appear to herald.
During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy, Gordon also questioned the DOE about its options as to power sources for an increase in demand should the Philippines achieve a higher growth rate.
“We have to prepare for a power gap which is coming and we have to make a decision. From what you are saying, we are running in order to stay in place. In other words, we’re just running to have a reserve for the moment. What I’m talking about is ‘what is the national interest?’ What is the policy? Right now, we are approaching 7% growth rate, we could go to 9%, we could go to 10%. But when we reach 9% or 10% growth rate, you will have greater energy demand. And that is what I’m trying to get out of this. Kanina sinabi ko, ano ba talaga ang problema natin? Present tense. Down the line, ano ang future tense natin?” he asked the DOE.
The senator pointed out that the government should make preparations to ensure that there would be sufficient power supply to support an increased growth rate.
“What are doing to look for power here? Saan natin kukunin? Ilan ang kakailanganin natin pag nag-8% GDP tayo, pag nag-9% GDP tayo ilan ang kakailanganin nating power? Saan natin kukunin? Kasi ang China, ganyan magplano, Amerikano, ganyan magplano, so they went into trade. Tayo, wala tayo ni ano kaya kailangan ang national security concern natin is that we must be able, kaya natin magdala ng sufficient power para may kabuhayan ang tao natin. Kung hindi, titigil yan,” Gordon said.
“What does it augur for the country then if we don’t look for a continuity of supply for the next years? We should look at the situation not only nationally but also geographically – continuity of supply not only in Luzon but also in the Visayas and Mindanao. We must have sufficient resources to run these factories, to run the houses. Kailangan natin ang certain amount of power. Ito ang kailangan natin para continuously we will not be dependent on other countries,” he further explained.
The senator also expressed inclination towards nuclear power plants as energy source despite its unpopularity. He added countries like France, China, and Taiwan, among others are using nuclear plants as efficient sources of energy.
“I don’t care if nuclear energy is unpopular as long as it provides uninterrupted power supply. Other countries are doing it…I think we have national mental dwarfism. Mayaman ang bansa natin, mamimili tayo tapos hindi natin gagamitin. Yung Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, built in the 1970s at $2 billion and is being maintained at an annual cost of P27 million, has never produced a single kilowatt,” he pointed out.
The DOE said nuclear power was among options that the DOE was pursuing to ensure long-term energy stability for the country, along with other power sources. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said nuclear power was viable as it is cheap to produce and has greater longevity than other depletable sources such as natural gas and coal.
The current national energy supply is at 17,925 MW, sufficient for the demand for 13,500 MWs. Cusi said the supply is only compromised by unexpected outages and simultaneous maintenance shutdowns of powerplants, a situation that led to the supply shortage in Luzon a month ago.