Build Build Build: A boon or bane for the energy sector?

Build, Build, Build A boon or bane for the energy sector

Labeled as the ‘golden age of infrastructure’, the Build, Build, Build program of the Duterte administration is looking to raise the Philippines’ economic growth capacity through various infrastructure projects that will bring further progress to the country.

The Build Build Build program is a series of development projects worth P8 trillion which aims to increase the country’s economic output to seven percent.

In a report by the Inquirer, most of the projects under the BBB are under the country’s Transportation and Public Work and Highways departments.

There are other projects for flood management, water supply, school infrastructure, information technology, healthcare, prison quality, and power.

“We see a high degree of commitment and seriousness in the executive branch and probability of sufficient financing…not for every project to be completed on schedule but for very substantial and significant progress,” John Forbes, senior adviser at the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, told Reuters in a report.

But while the BBB projects seem to be a good initiative that has been attracting many investors – every project needs a strong backbone. And in the case of BBB – it’s energy.

In a report by the Philippine Star, the country needs an additional 26, 000 megawatts to support the government’s development plans. This is apart from the 17,000 megawatts needed by the country to support the growing economy.

In total, the country needs 43,000 MW to support BBB and the growing economy. This accounts for $55 billion worth of investment to meet this demand.

However, the country’s power supply has been quite unstable. In September alone, three yellow alerts have been declared by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

In 2016, the country had a combined capacity of 21, 387 MW. The dependable capacity was at 19, 097 MW.

Meanwhile, Luzon’s peak demand this year breached 10,000 MW. This peak, in a report by the Manila Standard, is supporting the country’s 6.5 percent economic expansion for the second quarter.

It was Secretary Cusi himself who said that the country needs power for the BBB, “trains won’t run, rudders will not work without energy.”

The mission now of the country is to be able to establish a way to meet the demands of the BBB projects.

“Dutertenomics and the government’s Build, Build, Build agenda will not take off if ample and cheap power supply is not readily available,” a Manila Standard column said.

A column from the Manila Bulletin added that the country needs more power plants, especially now that the Luzon grid is met with yellow alerts that are coupled with the BBB.

“The Philippines needs more modern, environmental friendly baseload power plants,” it read.

CitizenWatch Philippines Convenor Hannah Viola also said that Duterte’s BBB agenda would need more power generation capability.

“Luzon is in dire need of new generation capacity which will provide reliable and stable power supply,” she told the Standard.

But while power plant projects take a long time to build from its papers to its actual groundbreaking, the Duterte admin has come up with other ways to meet the energy demand.

The president signed Executive Order 30 that has labeled energy projects as of National Significance. This will streamline the process of major energy projects in the country.

The NGCP was also given the go signal to begin the construction of the Visayas-Mindanao interconnection project that will connect the transmission grids of the two islands.

“[This project is] very badly needed for energy sharing and energy security,” Cusi said.

While the aim of the BBB is to create a better economy for the country through infrastructures and jobs creation, it cannot be ignored that power is needed in order to make all these possible. And this is something the government should seriously take into consideration.