DOE pays your salary, not PDP-Laban, Cusi told
MANILA, Philippines — After five years in the government payroll, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi should remember that he is being paid by the Filipino people and should attend to electricity rates that have remained among the highest in Asia and a power supply that has worsened under his stewardship.
The consumer group Power for People Coalition (P4P) called out Cusi for his “preoccupation” with Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party despite the country’s tenuous power situation.
“As I understand, Secretary Cusi is being paid by the Department of Energy (DOE) to work for an energy sector that benefits all Filipinos,’’ Gerry Arances, the convener of the group, said in a statement.
“The fracas inside PDP-Laban showed that Cusi can work quickly and effectively to get what he wants,” he added. “But after five years in DOE, we just have to ask if he really wants what’s best for electricity users in the country.”
According to global energy analysts, electricity rates in the Philippines and Singapore cost $0.17 per kilowatt-hour—the second most expensive in Asia, next to Japan at $0.259 per kWh.
Inability to manage prices
Aside from his inability to manage power prices, Arances said Cusi had also “presided over at least one power crisis, saw the country embrace coal as its primary source of energy in violation of its commitments to the Paris Agreement.”
Under Cusi’s management, at least five still-unidentified power-generating companies had to shutdown in May due to technical troubles that have remained unspecified.
Consequently, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, owned by the family of the late tycoon Henry Sy Sr., placed the Luzon power grid under capacity and caused power interruptions.
It was also under Cusi’s stewardship that there were sudden spikes in the prices at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, which several lawmakers, including Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, found to be suspicious.
In a Senate probe of the power crisis, Gatchalian noted one of the obvious causes of the power crisis was the lack of new baseload power plants.
The senator said it would take four to five years to build new power plants, but the red tape in energy regulatory agencies added two more years to put up a power plant.
Gatchalian also lamented that energy officials were too slow in action and policy formulation, and instead resorted to “finger-pointing.”
Despite the troubles in the power sector, Cusi chose to get involved in the political intramurals within the PDP-Laban, which expelled him as party vice chair last month.
On Saturday, the faction identified with Cusi and President Duterte held a national council meeting that passed a resolution voiding the actions of the Pimentel-Pacquiao faction.
“I wonder what would happen if people could expel Secretary Cusi from the DOE,” Arances said. “Will he be able to fix all the problems of the energy sector within a week?”
In June, Cusi already received flak for being too busy with party matters while the Luzon grid suffered rotational brownouts due to a shortage of power generation capacity.
“So far, under his watch, we have become more dependent on expensive, polluting and unreliable coal, while the advance of renewable energy was stymied by the DOE except in press releases, and now we are looking at the use of gas, another expensive and polluting fossil fuel, to replace coal instead of using sustainable and renewable sources,” Arances said.