Somewhere in the news section of this Web site, you'll find a story about Intel's impending plan to shut down its Philippine plant after 34 years of operations. This is sad news for the country, but the company seems bent on moving its factory where the cost of labor and electricity is much lower.
The fact is, the Philippines has the most expensive power rates in Asia, second only to Japan. I'm not an expert on the energy sector, but the common perception here is that the abnormally high price is primarily due to the wrong strategy, which was implemented in the mid-90s by former President Fidel V. Ramos.
Ramos, who was head of the country from 1992 to 1998, signed contracts with multiple IPPs (independent power producers) in an attempt to remedy the debilitating blackouts that afflicted the term of his predecessor, former President Corazon Aquino. Back then, it was not unusual to have six to eight hours of power outages every single day.
When Ramos won the presidency, he immediately signed the IPP contracts to take the country out of the so-called "dark age". The tactic initially worked and this boosted his political stock. But the long-term effects of that haphazard decision ultimately strained the country's treasury, as the government struggled to subsidize those costly IPP contracts.
And we've been paying for that mistake until now.
One of the casualties in this disgraceful debacle is the electronics sector, which, incidentally, is the country's biggest export earner. Intel's decision to leave the country underscores this painful reality.
Having said that, I'd now like to share an interesting story I got from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as part its effort to find alternative sources of energy and save the country from a possible energy crisis.
I'm not sure how it actually works, but the DOST is currently trying to derive energy from the ocean's water flow. That's right, water flow. It's different from hydro-thermal energy, but it's similar in the way energy is obtained.
This technology, the DOST said, was originally developed in Italy and is perfect for an archipelago like the Philippines.
An agency of the DOST called PCIERD (Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development) has, in fact, sent a team to Italy for training in this area at the International Center for Science and High Technology.
There, the Philippine staff learned how to use GIS (geographic information system) for the water flow project, dubbed "Exploitation of Marine Current for Power Generation".
The collaboration eventually led the Italian government to grant 300,000 euros (US$471,600) for a pilot initiative to be undertaken in the country. The Philippines provided a counterpart fund of 8 million pesos (US$191,200).
According to PCIERD's executive director Raul Sabularse, the money will be used to acquire turbines, mooring and cable equipment. Parts of the fund will be used to conduct a detailed survey of the project area located in the southern part of the Cebu province.
Participants in the project are Italian company Ponti de Archimede, Cebu-based Colorado Shipyard, University of San Carlos, and the local government of Santander, Cebu.
The project looks interesting. I hope something good develops out of this.
Epson Philippines has signed up Ed Bonoan as its new general manager. He will be reporting to company president Hideto Nakamura. Bonoan resigned from Sun Microsystems Philippines (SunPhil) last Apr. 4 to assume the post previously occupied by Jino Alvarez, who is now the head for IT products at rival firm Samsung Philippines. Several key executives left the local Epson office last year, reportedly due to disagreements with Nakamura. They included assistant general manager John Titan, Heidi Co, Russer Cabrera, and Alex Manahan. Early last year, marketing head Randy Kanapi also resigned from the company. Bonoan had an eight-year stint with Computer Associates (CA) Philippines, which pulled out its operations in the country last year. He started out as an account manager in 1991 before finally winding up his career there as country manager for partners and channels group. Prior to hooking up with SunPhil, he was executive managing director for ICT and adjunct faculty member at AIM.