PHL told to subsidize power, explore oil reserves in South China Sea

PHILSTAR FILE PHOTO

By Ashley Erika O. Jose, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINES should start subsidizing power costs and explore oil reserves in the South China Sea to lower electricity rates, according to business tycoon Ramon S. Ang.

“There is a big natural gas field in the West Philippine Sea [and] we should concentrate on developing that in the future,” the San Miguel Corp. president and chief executive officer told reporters on the sidelines of an economic forum on Monday, referring to areas of the sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. “The area is disputed but we should explore that in the future.”

Mr. Ang said the country has high electricity costs in the absence of state subsidies aside from taxes on power and oil products.

The Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 deregulated the Philippine power industry and privatized state-owned power generation and transmission assets.

The measure was enacted supposedly because government control of the industry inhibited private sector expansion.

But the Department of Energy sees no need to subsidize power costs.

“What is the need for it if we trust private sector investors to come in and invest in the Philippine energy sector?,” Energy Assistant Secretary Mario C. Marasigan told BusinessWorld in an interview. “What’s the need for a subsidy?”

The Center for Energy, Ecology and Development in a 2020 report said the Philippines has the second-highest electricity prices in Asia at P8.96 per kilowatt-hour on the average.

Meralco has said the rate for a typical household would rise to P11.41 per kilowatt-hour this month.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said the Philippines is leaning toward not subsidizing the oil and power sector.

“We should avoid subsidizing power, electricity and fuels generally because the biggest consumers of fuels are the rich,” he said on the sidelines of the forum.