Cordillera eyes more renewable resources to generate power
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — The Cordillera region is harnessing more renewable energy projects from its major rivers to spur economic recovery while fighting the impact of climate change.
“The Department of Energy says the Cordillera has the potential to supply 3,600 megawatts of electricity from hydroelectric sources, but only 5 percent is being generated,” Apayao Gov. Elias Bulut Jr. said.
During the Regional Development Council (RDC) assembly held here last week, Bulut said he took his cue from President Marcos, who advocated the shift from fossil fuels to renewable and other alternate sources of power.
Bulut, who chairs the RDC, said the more focused drive for hydropower would bring direct foreign investments to the region, which gets the smallest annual budget because of its relatively small population.
“It is a shame we are not harnessing these God-given resources,” Bulut said, referring to the region’s status as Luzon’s watershed cradle, where the headwaters of the island’s 13 major rivers are located.
Between 2008 and 2018, at least 193.63 million cubic meters of surface river water were utilized for electric generation in the Cordillera, which was lower than the 1.743 million cubic meters used for irrigation, according to the region’s latest physical flow accounts for water resources, which the Philippine Statistics Authority released in November.
The oldest hydropower plants that continue to operate in the region are Ambuklao and Binga in Benguet province, but Cordillera rivers have powered up neighboring power plants like the San Roque Multipurpose Dam in Pangasinan province and Magat Dam, which straddles the provinces of Ifugao and Isabela.
Apayao is benefiting from a hydropower project at the Apayao-Abulug river system, which courses through the towns of Pudtol and Kabugao. A service contract was awarded as early as 2011 to Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corp., which is building a 150-MW facility that was scaled down from the original 600-MW venture.
“The development of renewables takes time. The President even conceded that power plants could go online after his term,” Bulut said as he urged the region’s local governments to formulate ordinances that would speed up renewable energy projects, which are entitled to incentives.
That includes easing the process of securing the free, prior and informed consent of communities that live in areas suited for hydropower, Bulut said.
“Once renewable energy businesses are set up, employment opportunities arise, and economic activities will be revitalized,” he said.
The region suffered a 10.2-percent growth contraction in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
“[But] as mobility restrictions eased and economic activities gradually opened, the [Cordillera] region’s gross domestic product rebounded from P288.88 billion in 2020 to P310.59 billion in 2021 [which was] a 7.5-percent improvement,” according to the 2021 Cordillera Regional Development Report of the National Economic and Development Authority.
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