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The other week, Unilever’s country chairman and CEO Rohit Jawa and I, together with my brother John, who is the managing director of our Selecta ice cream JV with Unilever, met Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla and his team to discuss the power situation.
Selecta is the market leader in ice cream with close to 80- percent share, with several thousands of freezers deployed in many sari-sari stores that are adding more income to small entrepreneurs.
It is in the peak summer months that they benefit the most from selling ice cream. We wanted to get an assessment on how bad the power situation really is and whether or not we would be having brownouts that could affect the businesses of many micro entrepreneurs as well as the operations of all those in business.
Sec. Petilla had a very comprehensive and objective assessment of the situation. We believe he is on top of the situation and he is one of the best Energy secretaries that we ever had.
In summary, he mentioned that while there is ample supply of power even during the summer months, there is still a risk or a probability that short brownouts may occur if there will be a breakdown in any of our power plants, or if there is a drastic jump in demand during the summer period.
The problem is that the supply is just enough and at the same time, demand is not static. It moves up and down and can swing even within the day by 1,000 or more megawatts during the peak hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., i.e., from 7,000 to over 8,000 megawatts. There is not enough buffer or ample reserve capacity that can easily be tapped when the need arises.
Thus, in a possible worst case of breakdown in one power plant, or jump in demand, there can be a short one or two-hour brownout, during the peak hours of the day. There are ways taken to address the issue. One is more long term, such as building new capacities, which are private sector led. The other solution is a bit more short term and may be costly as well and will yield higher cost of power.
These are the use of modular diesel run gensets that can add 200 MW or more in an area. The immediate option being adopted is through Interruptible Load program (ILP) where big users like manufacturing plants, commercial establishments like malls are encouraged to use their gensets, where government subsidizes the fuel that will be used. In this way, power supply can immediately be increased, and at the same time, demand is brought down as these companies use their own power supply.
The next campaign will also be focused on educating the users and even household users with energy saving practices that can lower demand and also result in savings for households. An example would be teaching the habit putting the thermostat of our aircons or refs at lower cooling levels, resulting in lower power consumption and savings in electricity bills.
Another empowering activity took place last week when Go Negosyo joined Sen. Bam Aquino and DTI Sec. Greg Domingo in the launch of the Go Negosyo Center in Iloilo. Supporting the center were the dynamic Iloilo local officials led by mayor Jed Mabilog, vice mayor Jose Espinosa, city councilors and city administrator Col. Bautista. The Negosyo centers are to be rolled out in all the provinces, cities and municipalities, as mandated by the Go Negosyo Act, R.A. 10644, which is the law initiated by Sen. Bam.
DTI was tasked to implement the law through the opening of more than 1,600 of these centers that are meant to bring the business assistance services closer to the people. We were told that the target is around 100 this year and 500 in the next couple of years.
Sen. Bam confided in us that this is in a way meant to bring back the trust of the people to government institutions, which should be service-oriented and promotional. Private organizations like Go Negosyo and the local business chambers, MSMED Council and the local governments all lend a helping hand in ensuring that the right services are provided to aspiring or existing entrepreneurs, from start-up stage to business registration facilitation, access to finance, mentorship in product development and linkage to market, trade and technology information, entrepreneurial management. It is also tapping to the network of negosyo organizations and the academe for mentorship.
In the end, these efforts are meant to uplift the capacity and competitiveness of Filipino entrepreneurs to level-up and become bigger and globally competitive. We need smarter and empowered SME’s, which compose 99.6 percent of all the negosyos in the country. Empowering and elevating their capabilities is like empowering the bottom of the pyramid that will create more jobs, which to us is the lasting solution to poverty alleviation. It is not enough that only a few are prosperous. We should make all Filipinos prosperous!
On a related topic, Sen. Bam and I met the other day our good friend Doris Magsaysay Ho, who is the current chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council. We were glad to learn that the APEC that will happen on November has a particular conference that will focus on SME development. Go Negosyo will partner with Doris for this summit. We thank her and the APEC for prioritizing SMEs in their agenda and we shall work on having a one-of-a kind gathering among successful entrepreneurs in APEC and we will make sure we open up these sessions to our thousands of micro and SMEs to get the needed inspiration, exposure and mentorship. I shall discuss that topic soon in this column.