DOE moves to treat energy projects as bills of ‘national significance’

By Myrna M. Velasco – October 31, 2016, 10:00 PM

from Manila Bulletin

The Department of Energy (DOE) is urging Congress to legislate a policy that will treat energy projects of “national significance,” but the proposal at this point is still in ‘skeleton form’ – devoid yet of the necessary details and substantial structural framework.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi noted that with this proposed measure, there will be “faster realization of energy projects,” that shall underpin the country’s economic growth aspirations.

But when asked on the more particular items that they would want Congress to act on – such as the propounded reasonable timeframe on project approvals because that is a major concern of investors – the response to media queries have been coming too slow.

The department cannot also give a categorical answer as to which entity will initiate the drafting of details of the proposed legislation – if it is the DOE or they will let both houses of Congress come up with their respective versions.

Questions on how to tackle spot zoning concerns as well as harmonizing national policies with the devolution of function to local government units (LGUs) under the Local Government Code have not also yielded response as of press time.

This proposed policy was revived on the instigation of Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian, with him noting that Cusi can actually advance this agenda by convincing President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an Executive Order declaring energy projects of national significance. But the department tossed this back to Congress as a legislative proposition.

Cusi said “let us do away with the usual red tape such as the processing of lengthy permits, dues and waiting for a succession of signatories.”

Excessive bureaucracy and incoherent adherence to rules and formalities in project licensing and approvals have been driving away investors – in fact, such complaint already transcended various administrations.

Cusi added “this concern was brought up by the DOE to Congress in order to safeguard future and even existing energy projects.”

The energy chief said this is aligned with President Duterte’s pledge “to cut red tape to attract more investors to do business in the country.”

He stressed that the Chief Executive’s first order “was to require all the department secretaries and heads of agencies to remove redundant requirements and reduce the processing time for all applications.”