By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
Tomorrow (Feb. 19), Manila Electric Company (Meralco) is opening the 20-year supply contract for 1,800 megawatts (MW) of power to bidders. I cannot overemphasize the importance, albeit the need, for additional power sources looking forward from this economic pit where the pandemic has kept us. Sufficient power for our industries in a technologically fast-paced world is critical to our country’s economic recovery.
Even before COVID-19, this supply deal for the country’s largest power distributor has been considered a goldmine, so the terms of reference of the bidding have always been clear-cut and strict. It was recently reported that the Competitive Selection Process or CSP had disqualified an odd new player in the bidder’s roster – Kingstone Energy.
Power Philippines reported last week that Meralco Vice President and Utility Economics Head Lawrence S. Fernandez could not disclose the reason for Kingstone’s disqualification. However, it has coordinated its pre-qualification stage results with the Department of Energy (DOE). Having said that, little is known about Kingstone or its track record in power generation other than the hoopla that it brings in big bucks because it is well-funded by Chinese financiers. In fact, there is no Kingstone power project recorded in the Oct. 31, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020 DOE list of committed and indicative projects.
Off the bat, the DOE’s moratorium on coal-fired power projects issued last October should have supported the outright disqualification of Kingstone. And as AGHAM or the Alyansa ng mga Grupong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Mamamayan points out, not only are Kingstone’s power plants unqualified, the firm was also represented solely by a law firm throughout the (CSP) process. Since this new coal power plant has yet to be put up, the question of the proponent’s proven capability and expertise comes into play, with the lingering threat of China lurking in the background.
AGHAM President Angelo B. Palmones further paints the cloud of doubt over Kingstone, citing records that its equity ownership is spread over several offshore companies with no clear, credible power company in control. With this in view, I agree with Palmones’s position that there is a serious national and energy security issue here if Kingstone is allowed to thrive in Philippine power contracts.
“If Kingstone comes to fruition, this will mean that China controls 1,200 MW power supply in Luzon,” warned Palmones, a former congressman. “If the Kingstone project succeeds, China will not only have control over transmission but will also become a major player in generation. This would be a threat to our power and energy ecosystem.”
In this regard, Firing Line believes that the Filipino nation should be made aware of AGHAM’s valid position that bidders like Kingstone should no longer interfere with the CSP and the bidding process of power projects. I sense that its Chinese financiers are power players and may tap connections in the higher echelons of government just to snare power supply deals. As this will only work against the development and growth of our country and economy, we must be vigilant.
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