WE would like to make one thing very clear at this point: Any discussion of policy platforms or strategy on the part of presidential candidates, either actual or presumed, should not be construed as an endorsement.
There will be a time for endorsements, but what we are looking for now instead are issues and ideas that are worthy of deeper assessment, with an eye towards encouraging a more substantial and productive public debate.
In his spirited “true” state of the nation address on Monday, Vice President Jejomar Binay provided a few of those. Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. provided considerably more of them – even though he took pains to clarify that he has not decided to run for president, and was therefore speaking in the abstract – in his speech to the attendees of the Asia CEO Forum in Makati last week. One of those topics, and one which has an almost universal impact on all Filipinos, is definitely worth a closer look.
Senator Marcos pointed out that, “The Philippines has the dubious distinction of having the most expensive electricity among all the Asean nations, [and]the second-highest in all of Asia, next to Japan.” The Philippines is saddled with a heavy reliance on imported fuels, and the sector is largely made up of outdated, inefficient generation systems.
Senator Marcos reserved most of his scorn, however, for the unnecessary costs borne by Philippine electric customers, and “the unjustifiable perception shared by government and the power sector that all risks and losses can be passed on to the end consumer.” These costs, which he described as being unfair because they are not directly connected to the production and delivery of electricity to customers, include corporate taxes, capital expenditures for things such as prepaid electricity programs, costs for electricity used to power electric companies’ own offices and facilities, and “system losses” due to pilferage and the power firms’ inefficiency.
Although details were a bit thin – which in turn is perhaps the unavoidable consequence of ideas being shared in a multifaceted speech with a time limit – Senator Marcos offered a few promising solutions: Revamping regulatory rules and structures to present a consistent, law-based investment environment; making regulation more inclusive; and throwing the full support of the government behind efforts to develop alternate sources of power, which not only improves environmental sustainability but builds power security by diversifying the energy mix, and provides a wealth of opportunities for new investment.
High electric costs and unstable supply cuts across every facet of the Philippine economy. High costs keep families from putting more of their hard-earned income to good use, and reduce the amount businesses can invest to expand or diversify their operations. Unstable or insufficient supply also discourages investment, particularly in the electronics sector, where stable, economical power is critical to key industrial processes.
Every would-be or actual aspirant to the office of president must have an understanding of this country’s power supply issues, and be able to explain at least a basic strategy with which he or she would address them. If a candidate cannot effectively discuss this issue that affects the lives and livelihood of every Filipino, then we believe we must consider the very real possibility that he or she is simply not qualified for the office being sought.