FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - July 23, 2019 - 12:00am

Its time has come.

Solar panel technology has advanced to a stage where it is possible to generate electricity and distribute it through microgrids that serve inaccessible communities. The new technology now makes it possible to light up the entire nation.

House Bill 8179 gives a visionary enterprise, Solar Para Sa Bayan (SPSB) a non-inclusive franchise to operate microgrids all through the archipelago. These small grids will distribute the power generated by solar farms to households where it was once uneconomic to deliver power from the national grid.

Because it is a non-inclusive franchise, other similar enterprises may compete with SPSB anywhere and whenever they want to. This can only be good for the communities stranded from the main grid.

This is not the bill’s only merit.

Because of strong lobbying by existing power distributors, the bill limits the scope open for microgrid operations to “remote and unviable, unserved or underserved areas.” In other words, the microgrids will not compete with existing power distributorships, even if some have failed their customers miserably.

The operation of microgrids will use only renewable energy technologies. They cannot distribute power generated using coal, natural gas or diesel plants.

The microgrids are obligated to provide accessible and reliable service and will face financial penalties if they fail to do so. This is consistent with the provisions of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

Most important, the bill explicitly states that the microgrids “shall not be entitled to any government subsidy”. This means they will be established at no cost to government or to taxpayers.

The lobbyists representing the existing power distributors might think they have succeeded in impairing the viability of microgrids as a business. But SPSB is happy with these provisions. They are brimming with confidence in the economics of their new technology that they are more than willing to accept the restrictions even if the same are not imposed on their competitors.

 A recent Pulse Asia survey shows that 82% of Filipinos favor having new options for electricity services. That is a measure of the level of discontent our consumers have for poor quality of service rendered by existing companies.

It is time for the power industry establishment to accept the challenge posed by the solar power/microgrid configuration. It will offer our remote communities the chance to access electric power. It will set new benchmarks for cost and efficiency in the power sector.

 Every safeguard the power entrenched electric utilities could imagine has been written into this bill. If SPSB delivers as promised, this can only be a boon to consumers.

It is time to reconfigure our power sector. The microgrids open the door to that necessary reconfiguration.

The President should not hesitate signing this non-exclusive franchise. It is most consistent with the change he promised our people.


There is an even more deeply entrenched group responsible for the underwhelming performance of the country’s sports program. It is organized around the person of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco who is now trying to regain control of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and even take over the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizational Committee (PHISGOC) currently chaired by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

The Cojuangco group has been blamed for the fractiousness that continues to afflict our sports organizations. This has led to the recent resignations of senior officials of the POC, paving the way for new elections to be held in a few days.

The same group is also accused of funding a demolition job against the PHISGOC, spreading the lie that President Duterte has withdrawn his support for the body just months ahead of our hosting of the Southeast Asian Games. The demolition campaign, it is believed, aims to pave the way for this entrenched group to wrest control away from the current PHISGOC officials. Control of the committee translates into control of the funds entrusted the entity.

The President, in fact, just recently approved an additional P1 billion additional funding for the PHISGOC. The added funding was made at Cayetano’s request and after the organizing committee briefed the President of the progress made in preparing for our hosting of the Games.

Much of the funding has gone into the construction of the Athletics Stadium, the Aquatics Center and the Athletics Village. All were built according to Olympics standards as are all the gear to be used by our athletes. The infra requirements for hosting the Games were all built in record time and ahead of schedule for which credit must got to BCDA president Vince Dizon.

In approving the additional funding, it was agreed that the DBM Procurement Service be tapped to ensure faster and more efficient procurement of goods, supplies, sports equipment and service contractors for the needs related to hosting the Games. It should also guarantee against a repeat of the wild and woolly spending that accompanied our previous hosting of the Southeast Asian Games.

The Philippines last hosted the event in 2005. At that time, the various competitions were held in schools campuses spread out over a wide area. Athletes were exhausted being shuttled from one venue to another. Many facilities were substandard.

After our hosting of the event in 2005, the POC could not properly liquidate P73.2 million of the fund. That remains an issue to this day. Cojuangco chaired the POC at that time and holds responsibility for the messy hosting of the Games.

That will not be repeated this time. With new sports facilities, better gear and a more disciplined spending, our forthcoming hosting of this regional event will be better.

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