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PH needs to invest in renewable energy

12:57 AM August 24, 2015

THE PHILIPPINES is considered one of the leading countries when it comes to laws dealing with climate change and disaster risk reduction and management. No less than the United Nations Development Programme has hailed the country for its being a “leader in climate change policies.”

The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, the Climate Change Act of 2009, the People’s Survival Fund of 2012, and the Renewable Energy Act of 2008—these are a few of the laws the Philippines has enacted in relation to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Such laws may be in place, but it is in their implementation that the Philippine government has a problem.

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Take the Renewable Energy Act of 2008. Despite its enactment seven years ago, we have not fully maximized until now the use of renewable energy—this, according to the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.

Instead, within two years after President Aquino’s declaration—made during the launch in 2011 of the government’s National Renewable Energy Plan—that the Philippines intends to “nearly triple the country’s renewable energy-based capacity from around 5,400 MW in 2010 to 15,300 MW in 2030,” the government approved the construction of 21 coal-powered projects. Despite government incentives to encourage generation companies to harness renewable energy, the latter still opted for the so-called “dirty energy” because of the huge profits it offers.

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In fact, since the enactment of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the Philippines continues to give the go-signal for the construction of coal plants, practically not minding the strong opposition by various sectors to the use of coal.

The rise in the use of coal results in more carbon emission which in turn harms the environment. Already, marine resources are getting scarce, extreme drought is being experienced in some parts of Mindanao, most of them agricultural areas. Yet, the Philippines continues to invest in coal-fired power plants.

Touted as a leader in climate change policies, other vulnerable developing countries also look to us as the “face” of and “rallying point” for climate change impacts because of the annual ration of extreme weather events (among the heaviest and most numerous compared to those of others like the 2013 Supertyphoon “Yolanda” [international name: Haiyan]), we cannot escape from.

Countries like Germany and Denmark have pledged to transform their power supply system into 100-percent renewables-based by 2050. Costa Rica announced in March 2015 that it has been able to harness renewable energy sources for the whole country. The world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide,

China, has committed to target at least 80-percent clean energy use by 2050.

Yet, the Philippines, sticks to fossil fuel as its main energy source, approving construction of more coal-powered plants on to the next decades. As of this year, only 28 percent of the total energy mix in the country is renewable. This is according to the Renewable Energy Management Bureau of our Department of Energy.

If the Philippines wants to show the world that our country is indeed the “rallying point” for climate change mitigation and adaptation, our government needs to “walk the talk” on renewable energy. But then, mere climate adaptation practices are not enough. We need to show other countries the way to climate mitigation and sustainable development, using renewable energy.

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The Aquino administration’s last year in office must be devoted to achieving sustainable, not just fiscal, growth for the entire Philippines; it must not focus on profits alone. This administration can leave a lasting legacy by harnessing renewable energy and ensuring a low-carbon path as part of its strategy to attain inclusive and sustainable development.

President Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address, which was delivered last July, disappointed because it did not contain any clear and definitive commitments to promote and institute the use of renewable energy—an undertaking that has become a race against time as vulnerable Philippine communities continue to suffer from unprecedented droughts and other impacts as a result of abnormal, extreme weather patterns and events.

The Philippines’ intended nationally determined contributions (INDC), which is to be submitted before October to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to be held this December in Paris, must take into account the country’s moral ascendancy on the issue of climate justice. And it should push us to walk our talk on climate action.

Investing in renewable energy is the first step. A clear and definitive commitment to the country’s INDC must be pledged, with a clear vision of the inputs to be made and outcomes to be expected. Lastly, the Philippines must work hard and with resolve to help the UNFCC reach a fair and binding climate deal come December.

Jed Alegado holds a master’s degree in public management from the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government.

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