DOE chief Cusi invites US firms to invest in PH energy development

Robie de Guzman   •   April 16, 2021   •   281

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi has called on the American business community to look into opportunities in the Philippine energy sector, particularly in renewable energy, as the country continues to seek the accelerated attainment of a secure and sustainable energy future.

Speaking at the Virtual Economic Briefing organized by the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. on Thursday, the Energy chief gave a brief rundown on the country’s energy landscape, including potential areas for enhanced bilateral energy cooperation.

“We are doing all we can to ensure that the country’s current energy requirements are met without compromising the ability of future generations to secure theirs,” he said.

Cusi, however, noted that US investments, especially in the area of energy and power generation, have dwindled in the past years.

“It is unfortunate that the US seems to have forgotten us, so I hope our American friends in the business community will again take a look at our new initiatives that aim to make the Philippines rife with many investment opportunities,” he said.

Given the urgency of establishing a sustainable global energy future, Cusi said the DOE is encouraging the further development and utilization of renewable energy without the Feed-In-Tariff (FiT) subsidies.

He said the government stopped the implementation of FiT because it “proved to be a big mistake.”

“It forced electricity prices in the country upwards. We cannot have our consumers shoulder the financial burden of such subsidies any longer. This holds true most especially since RE technologies and their markets’ competitiveness have significantly progressed in the past decade,” the DOE chief explained.

When asked which particular area of renewable energy he would like to see more private sector participation, Cusi cited the development of the country’s geothermal sector.

“Geothermal energy is an area that we would really like to tap and develop. That’s the kind of power we need, and we’d like to see investors from the US doing a 100% participation in the development of our geothermal energy,” he said.

The DOE chief also took the opportunity to brief the US investors on the updated Philippine Energy Plan or PEP for 2018-2040, which contains the necessary adjustments undertaken by the government in light of recent global developments, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By 2040, we envision that the Philippines would have a reliable and sustainable energy supply that will foster a balance between economic growth and the protection of the environment. Investments would be key to transforming this vision into a reality,” he said.

Cusi also mentioned other programs that the US business community may be interested to invest in, such as the Green Energy Option Program (GEOP), where clean energy advocates can source their clean power requirements through our Retail Electricity Suppliers (RES); the Green Energy Auction Program (GEAP), which provides an additional market for RE Developers with the end view of accelerating greater entry of renewables in the power industry; and the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP) that facilitates the exploration and development of the country’s indigenous resources and revitalize the upstream oil and gas sector.

There may also be investment opportunities in the future in the areas of nuclear energy and hydrogen, he added.

“The Philippines is ready to embrace the New Normal. We have been preparing for it and we are now steadily reopening our economy to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

The virtual economic briefing, held to celebrate the 75 years of PH-US bilateral relations, brought together PH and US government officials and private sector representatives to chart the way forward for two-way trade and investments in the context of both countries’ pandemic response and recovery plans.

Philippine GDP declines by 4.2% in first quarter of 2021 – PSA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine economy shrank by more than expected in the first quarter of the year, according to government data released on Tuesday, as prolonged community quarantines due to the pandemic hamper reopening efforts.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell -4.2 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier.

This is the fifth consecutive quarter that the country has posted negative GDP growth due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The PSA said the main contributors to the decline were Construction (-24.2 percent), other Services, (-38.0 percent); and Real Estate and Ownership of Dwellings (-13.2 percent).

Among the major economic sectors, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (AFF) declined by -1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021. Likewise, Services and Industry contracted by -4.4 percent and -4.7 percent, respectively during the period, the PSA noted.

“On the demand side, Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) declined by -4.8 percent, along with the following items: Gross Capital Formation (GCF), -18.3 percent; Exports, -9.0 percent; and Imports, -8.3 percent,” the agency said.

The net primary income (NPI) from the rest of the world continued to decline by -75.8 percent, bringing the Gross National Income (GNI) to drop by -10.9 percent during the period, it added.

On the other hand, the PSA said that government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) grew by 16.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021.

Contributors to growth were led by financial and insurance activities (5.2 percent), public administration and defense, compulsory social activities (7.5 percent), and human health and social work activities (11.7 percent).

Other industries that managed to grow during the period were information and communication, 6.3 percent; manufacturing, 0.5 percent; and electricity, steam, water, and waste management, 1.9 percent, the PSA said.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said the aversion to risk for most of 2020 has placed the country in a long period of quarantine, and that this came at a huge cost to the economy and the people.

It, however, observed some improvements as the rate of contraction has slowed, and that the country has time to catch up with on its growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent despite the pandemic-induced quarantine restrictions.

Evaluation of EUA application for Sinopharm vax may be completed in less than 21 days – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The evaluation process for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine will not take long before it can be granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday.

FDA director-general Eric Domingo said the Sinopharm vaccine has already been included in the emergency use listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and access to its documents, including inspection reports from the WHO will be faster.

“Useful yung kanyang Emergency Use Listing sa WHO kasi before this, wala pa siyang EUA from a stringent regulatory authority katulad ng mga USFDA ganyan or Europe, Japan… hindi pa siya listed sa mga iyon. Pero yung WHO na emergency use listing that’s equivalent to a stringent regulatory authority,” he said.

“Ang maganda sa WHO kasi very transparent ang documents nyan. Available din siya sa FDA. Lahat ng ni-review nila, maaari naming ma-access kaya hindi tayo masyado mahihirapan sa paghingi ng information,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it has started the process of applying for EUA, pending documents about the vaccine product.

The FDA said the process may take less than 21 days once the DOH completes the application process.

“Kapag ganyan na merong WHO EUL, mas mapapabilis iyan. Nakakaya natin iyan usually less than 21 days,” Domingo said.

The FDA also echoed the DOH’s earlier statement that there are no irregularities with the government’s move to file an EUA for a Chinese-made vaccine since they also applied for the EUA of other COVID-19 vaccine brands, such as Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer, in order for these vaccines to be delivered to the country.

“Talagang nasa batas and it’s a worldwide practice,” he said. “Based on WHO guidelines, posible naman na gobyerno gusto bumili ng bakuna na walang local manufacturer or representative dito. In those cases, the government itself can get EUA.”

“Hindi naman conflict yun dahil ang EUA ay hindi naman product registration o marketing authorization lang, talagang for emergency use lang ang mga bakuna,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Palace welcomes WHO’s emergency use listing for Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to approve Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL).

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this development will strengthen the country’s vaccine portfolio.

“We welcome the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization for Sinopharm. This development would strengthen our diversified vaccine portfolio as we continue to work on improving access to safe and effective vaccines, including Sinopharm,” Roque said.

A WHO emergency listing means that a product’s safety and efficacy has been rigorously evaluated. It will also allow the product to be included in the COVAX facility for faster global roll out.

The COVAX facility led by the WHO is a global program that seeks to provide vaccine supply mainly for poor countries.

The emergency use listing will also allow countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The Philippines has so far received more than 7.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and more are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

“With the arrival of the bulk of our vaccine orders in the coming months, we are confident that we would be able to speed up our coronavirus vaccination program,” Roque said.

The Department of Health earlier said the emergency use authorization (EUA) application for Sinopharm vaccine is now being processed.

The Food and Drug Administration said the application’s evaluation will not take long as the product is already under the WHO emergency use listing.

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