• Idle youth

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    This makes vocational technical education, which is part of the K plus 12 new education curriculum, all the more important.

    The World Bank recently noted that the number of idle young people in the Philippines is already among the highest in East Asia.

    In its “East Asia Pacific at Work: Employment, Enterprise and Well-Being” report, the World Bank said scores of young Filipinos are at risk of being unemployed throughout their working lives because of youth inactivity.

    The Philippines is already on the level of Greece and Italy when it comes to youth inactivity and the high level of youth unemployment could be considered a “national crisis,” said Truman Packard, one of the report’s lead authors.

    “Idle” youth include those ages 15 to 24, who are neither employed, in school, nor in skills training.

    Packard said that being at risk of unemployment throughout their working lives is an effect of scarring. This occurs when young members of the labor force are unable to find jobs, be educated, or acquire work-related skills at an early age.

    Apart from being at risk of being unemployed throughout their lives, the unemployed youth are also likely to suffer lower wages and labor productivity.

    In January 2014 the country’s unemployment rate increased to 7.5 percent, from 7.1 percent in January 2013. Almost half, or 48.2 percent, of the unemployed are between 15 and 24 years old.

    Further, almost half of the country’s unemployed, or around 45.4 percent, were high-school graduates. This was lower than the 47 percent posted in January 2013.

    Young people need to be trained in employable skills, for jobs that are not necessarily white collar. Like I said, this is where the K plus 12 vocational-technical program comes into play, and the government must provide more in the national budget for it.

    Pipelines versus trucks
    Last week, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) awarded a P20-million in-line inspection contract for the Ilijan natural gas receiving facility pipeline to Powerhouse Industrial Sales and Services Inc. and Rosen Asia Pacific.

    The project will help ensure the integrity and safety of the 14.6-kilometer pipeline that runs from Batangas City to Ilijan, which are both in Batangas province.

    The condition and integrity of the pipeline will be checked using in-line inspection tools called “pigs.”

    Aside from the pig system, Napocor will also award a P23-million contract for the installation of a leak detection system for the INGRF pipeline.

    The Ilijan power plant is a 1,200-megawatt (MW) generating facility that uses natural gas from the Malampaya gas field near Palawan.

    Natural gas from Malampaya traverses through a pipe from Palawan to the Shell Tabangao refinery in Batangas, where it is supplied to two more power plants, aside from the one in Ilijan, the 500-MW San Lorenzo power station and the 1,000-MW Santa Rita power station. These three power plants supply a total of 2,700 MW to the Luzon grid, accounting for 36 percent of Luzon’s requirements.

    The Philippine government is preparing to bid out other potential gas pipeline projects. The Department of Energy is also pushing for the passage of the Oil and Gas Pipeline Regulation Act. This only shows that the government is well aware of the importance of a pipeline system as well as the advantages of operating it.

    What about the 117-kilometer Batangas-to-Manila white oil pipeline which through the same pig system and other tests had already been recommended safe for commercial operation? If it is safe, by all means, why not use it?

    If you recall, a writ of kalikasan was issued by the Supreme Court against that pipeline way back in November 2010.

    After four years of litigation it is about time this matter is settled.

    Last I heard the Supreme Court said the pipeline can reopen once the DOE certifies its safety and stability.

    Determining this is very important since the pipeline provides around 60 percent of the fuel supply in Metro Manila through the Pandacan depot, the country’s largest oil depot.

    Running fuel products through a pipeline is a simple matter of practicality and economics. Pipelines are the most cost-effective way to move a large volume of fuels over long distances.

    In the US, there are more than 200,000 miles of oil pipelines that operate with minimal safety problems.

    Without pipelines oil companies would have to use trucks and barges to transport their products. This is how most of the fuels needed for Metro Manila are being transported now in the absence of an operating pipeline.

    Thousands of fuel trucks are plying our roads every day, exacerbating traffic, worsening pollution, and increasing the possibility of deadly accidents.

    When there are floods, which nowadays seems to occur practically every time there are downpours, typhoon or no typhoon, fuel trucks also have a hard time making deliveries which severely restricts fuel supply.

    Congress should pass the Pipeline Act because there is a need for a continuous assessment of pipeline systems to ensure the safety of those living near or around them.

    But given how commonplace road accidents are in the Philippines (indeed, one of the leading causes of deaths and injuries in the country), I would prefer pipelines over the thousands of trucks plying our roads, anytime.

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