BOI Official: Use Coal for Cheap Electricity

A ranking official of the Bureau of Investments (BOI) personally believes that known mineral resources in the province of Catanduanes should be extracted and utilized for the benefit of its people, particularly in mining coal to provide cheap electricity.

Atty. Raul Angeles, executive director of the BOI Investments Servicing Group who is a native of San Pedro, Panganiban, said an enlightened and informed decision should be made jointly by the national and local governments on the issue of commercial mining. The official made the comments in reference to recent issues of the Tribune concerning the issuance by the Department of Energy of a Coal Operating Contract covering 7,000 hectares in Caramoran, Bagamanoc, Panganiban and Viga to a Philippine subsidiary of Australia-based Altura Mining Limited.

Discussions, he added, should be conducted without resorting to emotions as he challenged local chief executives and concerned groups to decide the future of Catanduanes. “We have to face the issue and have a consensus,” he stressed.

Angeles, however, clarified that as far as the BOI is concerned, it would not promote commercial mining in Catanduanes if the local government units do not want it. “We will not invite investors here if they will only be hounded by protests,” the new lawyer said.

Personally, he disclosed, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under which the BOI operates has to review the mining laws. “What the government is getting from the mining industry is too small,” he pointed out, adding that the 2% excise tax on extracted minerals has to be divided among the national, provincial, municipal and barangay governments.

“There should be more benefits for the people,” the BOI director stated, as long as the mining companies comply with mitigating requirements under existing environmental and mining laws, rules and regulations.

Angeles noted that for the island province to attract investments, it has to offer adequate and affordable power. While Sunwest Water & Electricity Co. is now operating two hydroelectric power plants, he underscored that hydro power cannot serve as the base load of the island grid.

Coal in abundance in the central part of the island can be used to produce 50 megawatts of electricity, without damaging the environment, through the use of clean-coal technology,” Angeles said. A coal-fired thermal power plant would be able to produce 100 megawatts, enough to bring down the cost of electricity on the island to at least P7.50 per kilowatt-hour, compared to the existing P11 per kWh, he emphasized.

On the other hand, he reminded businessmen and some local officials during the Investment Promotion Seminar held by the DTI last March 26 at the capitol tome that a typical two-year exploration project to be conducted by a mining company would cost US$2 million, with only a small chance of unearthing a world-class mineral reserve.

Exploration will not damage the environment, Dir. Angeles stressed, as only a small portion of the 7,000 hectares granted to Altura will be actually used. The LGUs will come in only after exploration is completed as the mining firm would have to decide whether to proceed to the extraction stage, he bared, with consultations with affected groups and the issuance of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), as well as the payment for the Environmental Guarantee Fund, to be required by the government.

Angeles’ statements came in the midst of his presentation on Investment Priority Areas of the Philippines, in which he said that Catanduanes could be a little Taiwan with a lot of manufacturing activities

Viable projects in the island that could attract investors under the IPA include energy development, including renewable energy and coal-bed methane power plants; agri-fisheries, particularly deep-sea fishing to take advantage of the so-called “Tuna Highway” in the Pacific Ocean that passes close to the island; Ship-Building, which Gov. Joseph Cua would like to revive in Panganiban town and which could likewise service small boats from Japan and other countries where the labor cost is high; mineral resource development, focusing on coal and the large deposits of limestone that could be used to produce cement; and, tourism, with the island’s huge potential as a tourist destination although a lot needs to be done to improve transport facilities, accommodations and historical sites.

Source: Catanduanes Tribune