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Business

Pinoy leads drive for renewable energy

- Boo Chanco -
WASHINGTON DC –– When Dr. Ernesto Terrado assumed the specialist function for renewable energy at the World Bank over 20 years ago, he faced the very real danger of being declared irrelevant. In the context of delivering a meaningful difference to the bank’s program, renewable energy was not only small potatoes, it was also largely untested. Today, Dr Terrado can look back with pride on what has been accomplished worldwide under his direction.

Ernie Terrado was also the pioneer who developed the renewable energy program of our very own Department of Energy and PNOC in the early 80s. One of his recruits, then fresh from college, is Iggy Kilayko, now a very successful investment banker and director of the Philippine Stock Exchange. It was through one of the scholarships that Ernie passed on to Iggy that enabled the future finance hotshot to earn his MBA from Wharton.

Selling renewable energy had always been an uphill climb, even when policymakers paid the effort lip service. Ernie and his group worked on such exotic energy alternatives as wind, solar and biomass. That Non Conventional Energy Center in Diliman, with its solar powered air conditioning system, if it is still there, came to be with Ernie’s blood, sweat and tears.

But Dr. Ernie T (not to be confused with Dr. Ernie E who sends in our jokes), left the Philippines a few years after he set up our renewable energy program. Beyond a few pioneers who believed in what he was doing, like my late uncle, journalist Mao Chanco, renewable energy was not getting the attention it deserved from decision makers at home. So he accepted an offer of the World Bank to largely continue what he was doing in Diliman and Fort Bonifacio but on an international platform.

Over the last 20 years, Dr. Ernie T managed to make renewable energy a respectable concept. He has worked on renewable energy projects in Central and South America, India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Africa and of course, in the Philippines. Before he came to the Bank, absolutely zero resources were allocated to renewable energy. Today, World Bank projects in this sector have exceeded the billion dollar mark.

When I had lunch with Dr. Ernie T at the World Bank dining room early this week, he informed me that he retired two years ago but continues to work with the World Bank as a consultant. He reminded me that he is turning 65. How time flies!

When Ernie left Manila for the World Bank, he was just starting out with his family, and his kids were barely out of nursery school. He was also just about ready to break ground for the construction of his house, a project he had to quickly cancel. Today, his three girls are all grown up and married. He is even a proud grandfather.

Personal economic reasons keep Ernie and his family living in the United States. But he visits the Philippines often. In fact, he is due home next month to join a group of expat Pinoy scientists who have made good in America. They are having a convention where they hope to share knowledge and resources with locals, specially with students in engineering and other sciences.

There is a strong urge among this group of Pinoy scientists to help the motherland, Dr. Ernie T said, and they don’t even expect to get anything in return other than the satisfaction of being able to help. In fact, they tried to get an audience with Ate Glo when she visited Washington DC recently to precisely offer their services, but were disappointed. They felt the Embassy didn’t think they were important enough. Why am I not surprised?

But they are moving on, anyway. That’s why they will be in Manila next month. According to Ernie, many of the members of this group of expat Pinoy scientists have distinguished appointments as professors, department chairs and deans of some of the best universities in the US and as senior scientists in highly influential institutions such as NASA, NIH, USDA, FDA and the World Bank.

Two of its members, Professors Jose B. Cruz (Ohio State) and Alfonso Ang (UC Berkeley) belong to the US National Academy of Engineering, the most prestigious engineering academy in the US. Last year, the California Institute of Technology selected one of its members, Prof. Toto Olivera (Utah), as their alumnus of the year. Government should waste no time in harnessing them in the much-needed drive to improve our S and T sector. Maybe this group of low key high achievers who have proven their world-class capabilities here in the US of A, is just what we need.

In the meantime, the next time you think renewable energy, remember that a Pinoy scientist did the Pinoy nation proud when he quietly, expertly and persistently propagated the renewable energy concept all over the world. If only the prophet got more respect in his own homeland….
Consumer protection
One thing that I really like here in America is the strong consciousness for consumer protection. If you are doing your grocery shopping, the supermarket shelves display not only the price of the product you want, but also its unit price on a per ounce or per pound or whatever measure. That makes it easier to compare prices.

Back in Manila, even the big supermarkets don’t even always display prices anymore. I know that to be the case in Shopwise Libis, where we do most of our shopping. Maybe the local authorities and the Department of Trade should not only strictly implement the Price Tag Law but require them to also indicate the unit price as they do here in America. This way, we don’t have to bring a calculator when we do our grocery shopping.

The other good consumer deal I noticed is an ad of a cellphone company that allows a subscriber to carry over unused minutes month after month, because as the ad says, those minutes are yours. That’s what real competition can do! Back home, it is either you use it or you lose it.

Not only that, I still can’t figure out how Globe bills. I often get bills from two months ago included in my current bill. It is almost as if there is a premeditated attempt to make sure you get billed more for one month so you pay extra and not so much the next so you lose minutes. Why can’t they list your calls and bill you chronologically? Oh well…
Land of Abundance
I was people watching at a swanky new development in Los Angeles the other week and I could swear that seven out of 10 people, white, black or Hispanic, are overweight. Compared to them, I look anorexic, despite my continuing inability to lose the 30 pounds that I should.

It is apparently a medical problem. Now, here’s Dr. Ernie E this time, with his take on the matter.

It is time to advise your patients to go on a diet when...

They can sell shade.

You diagnose them with a condition involving flesh- eating bacteria, and you estimate that they have 34 more years to live.

Their driver’s licenses say, "Photo continued on other side."

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]

ALFONSO ANG

BANK

DR. ERNIE E

DR. ERNIE T

ENERGY

ERNIE

PINOY

RENEWABLE

WORLD

WORLD BANK

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