POSTSCRIPT / January 29, 2012 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why the objections to renewable energy?

BACOLOR, Pampanga – Last Friday we visited this town that we have always called by its old name Baculud, which means “level ground” referring to that time before geologic shifting and volcanic lahar flows raised it some 37 meters above sea level.

Baculud is a third-class town of only 25,500, yet is acknowledged as the Athens of Pampanga. Also, for two years, then Spanish Governor General Simón de Anda Y Salazar made it the national capital after Manila fell to the British in 1762.

The best known of its sons and daughters who have contributed significantly to arts and letters is Juan Crisostomo C. Soto, the father of Capampangan literature. If Tagalogs have their Balagtasan (inspired by Francisco Baltazar of Bulacan), Capampangans also have their Crissotan poetical jousts. In fact, Crissotanantedates Balagtasan.

We came here to join the commemoration of Crissot’s 145th birth anniversary and witness the crowning of colleague John C. Manalili as poet laureate at age 40. The rites, held beside the Crissot monument, were marked by the recitation of poesia in fine formal Capampangan.

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‘SANDIRIT’: John’s latest work is a body of more than 200 poems packed in a 262-page book titled “Sandirit.” The term means “to spin, swirl or twirl,” inviting visions of the perpetual motion of body and mind in search of a final form. The book has an electronic edition.

The book was launched at the Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University. The sight of its youthful yet zestful students belies the fact that the “Escuela de Artes y Officios de Bacolor” (aka Pampanga School of Arts and Trade), is 150 years old. It is the oldest trade school in the Far East.

A quadrilingual poet-journalist-broadcaster, John is director of the Bureau of Communications Services and a trustee of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI), which published the book with the help of friends of Pampanga literature.

Among those who graced his crowning and book-launching were Bacolor Mayor Jose Ma. O. Hizon; Dr. Enrique G. Baking and Dr. Rohel Serrano, DHVTSU president and vice president, respectively; poets laureate Romeo S. Rodriguez, Marites Evangelista-Magtuloy, Pol Batac, Jaspe Dula, Felix M. Garcia; Abel Soto, representative of the Soto family; officers and members of Kapampangan Pride, a social networking group, led by patrons of the art and business couple Anj O. Hizon and Landlee Quiwa, Josha de Leon, Marinella Go, Joet Magno-Sotto, among others; Joel Pabustan-Mallari of the Holy Angel Univerity’s Center for Capampangan Studies; and Nestor Galura, head, DHVTSU Center for Capampangan Culture and Arts.

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RENEWABLE ENERGY: We watch perplexed the silent but fierce battle being waged over renewable energy. While the Aquino administration has been eyeing renewable power sources to stabilize power supply and prices, some blocs appear to have put up obstacles.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras is up against big names standing in the way as the government taps renewable power sources to produce an optimum supply mix for the country reeling from the most expensive power in the region.

Media colleagues are puzzled by the objection to renewable power of some big names in a group called Foundation for Economic Freedom which still has to show constructive cooperation in hearings on renewable power rates at the Energy Regulatory Commission.

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ENERGY CZARS: Among those being watched are Ramos administration’s Delfin Lazaro of the Ayala Group, and Arroyo administration’s Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla. It may be time for them to spell out their positions more clearly.

The opposition of Lazaro and Lotilla to renewable energy is ironic. Most, if not all, energy secretaries have looked at indigenous and renewable power sources as the answer to economic dependence on imported coal and fossil fuel.

Also, Lazaro’s apparent anti-renewable energy stance contrasts with the Ayala group’s supposed pro-environment corporate policy.

On the other hand, Lotilla is identified with environmental circles. As deputy director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, he has advocated the “mainstreaming of environmental considerations in the overall economic policymaking process.”

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GMA APPOINTEES: Other FEF big names being mentioned in media are: Gary Olivar, spokesman of former President Gloria Arroyo; Patricia Sto. Tomas, labor secretary; and Gloria Tan-Climaco, an Arroyo adviser.

Olivar, an economics professor at the University of the Philippines, is confusing many of us by his opposing renewable energy. The state university is supposed to be pro-environment and anti-import dependence.

We do not know why the names of the soft-spoken Pat Sto. Tomas and the feisty Tan-Climaco are being dragged into the FEF’s war against renewable energy. They should speak up to clarify their position.

It is ironic that the renewable energy law was passed during the Arroyo administration. The former president gave it its first big push. Why should the former members of her team be fighting it now?

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RAMOS BOYS: Media colleagues also point to some Ramos figures in the FEF: former Finance Secretary Ramon del Rosario Jr. who heads the Philippine Investment Management Inc. (PHINMA), and former Finance Undersecretary Romeo Bernardo.

Del Rosario supposedly chairs the FEF board. Did he preside over the FEF board meeting where the group decided to ask the court to stop the ERC hearings on renewable power rates?

If yes, that would also be baffling. As far as the business community knows, PHINMA has investments in renewable energy through its subsidiary, Trans-Asia Renewable Energy Corp.

PHINMA also owns the Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp. which proclaims that it “aims to build the nation’s economy through self-reliance in energy.” Why Del Rosario would block the integration of locally-sourced renewable energy does not make sense.

Bernardo’s role in the whole scheme is not clear. It would be interesting to find out where his opposition to renewable power sources is coming from.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 29, 2012)

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