President forms council to fast-track energy investments

By Catherine S. Valente, TMT – July 6, 2017

from Manila Times

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has formed a council tasked to expedite and streamline the implementation of major energy projects in the country.

Executive Order 30, signed by the President on June 28, establishes the Energy Investment Coordinating Council (EICC), an interagency group to be led by the Department of Energy (DoE).

“It is the policy of the State to ensure a continuous, adequate and economic supply of energy. Hence, an efficient and effective administrative process for energy projects of national significance should be developed in order to avoid unnecessary delays in the implementation of the Philippine Energy Plan (PEP),” Duterte said in his order.

According to a University of the Philippines study last year, power investors need to secure more than 160 permits and clearances to build a new plant, and the approval process could take up to five years.

The EICC is tasked to “establish a simplified approval process, and harmonize the relevant rules and regulations of all government agencies involved in obtaining permits and regulatory approvals” when it comes to implementing big-ticket energy projects.

Such projects were collectively identified in the order as “Energy Projects of National Significance” or EPNS.

These projects must involve power generation or ancillary services, including those required to maintain and secure the power grid, and must be endorsed by the DoE as a “project of national significance” under the PEP.

To be included in the EPNS list, the project must have a capital investment of at least P3.5 billion, significant environmental impact, significant contribution to economic development, and complex technical processes and engineering designs.

The order also required government agencies to act on applications related to energy projects within 30 days after the submission of requirements. If the application is denied, the agency must explain in writing why.

If the agency is unable to meet the deadline, it must automatically approve the application within five working days, the order states.

Agencies must have “presumption of prior approvals,” meaning agencies that receive an EPNS application should process it without waiting for the action of any other agency.

“The processing agency shall act on the presumption that the relevant permits from other government agencies had already been issued,” the order stated.

Another function of the council is to prepare rules “governing the resolution of interagency issues” that could cause delays in the project’s implementation.

It must also maintain a database of information and a “web-based monitoring system” where updates on the projects are to be posted.