Opposition Congressman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III has assaieds the move of the Arroyo administration to borrow from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) the hefty sum of $35 million. “That is equivalent to P1.6 billion! For what you may ask? Pambili ng bombilya.”
Guingona is referring to the Energy Efficiency Project of the government, particularly the Department of Energy (DOE), for which the loan is intended. According to an ADB report, the components of the project include retrofitting about 40 government-owned office buildings with efficient lighting; the purchase of 13 million compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) for distribution to the country’s lifeline customers to reduce peak power demand; introduction of energy-efficient lamps for public lighting; setting up of a laboratory for testing energy efficient appliances and a lamp waste management facility; establishing an energy service company for promoting energy efficiency in public facilities, commercial and industrial customers; promoting an efficient building initiative; and developing and implementing a communication and social mobilization program.
According to him, this move of the administration is ill-conceived at best. He has a number of reservations regarding the loan.
“First of all, the significant word is ‘loan’ from the ADB. Utang. P1.6 bilyon na babayaran nating mga Pilipino. If we are borrowing that much money, we expect the project to deliver significant benefits. But what exactly is the project about? We do not need to be a rocket scientist or an expert in energy to be able to understand this project. It is simply a project to buy CFLs or energy saving lamps to replace incandescent lamps and save on electricity. Do we really need to borrow millions of dollars just for that?”
The second point of Guingona is that the government does not need to undertake a loan program to change bulbs. “Retrofitting government-owned buildings and public facilities with efficient lighting need not be the object of a loan. Such cost should be part of the maintenance expenditure of the agencies that maintain these buildings or facilities.” Common sense and self-interest are enough to motivate anyone to buy CFLs.
“As to the distribution of 13 million lamps to lifeline customers, the point is, people are already switching to CFL’s anyway. People are already aware that using CFLs is more practical and they are already using energy saving lamps as we speak, especially now that the cost of CFLs has become very affordable; a hundred pesos each, more or less. So is it really necessary to create a program and borrow P1.6 billion for this?”
“Apparently, poor consumers have more sense than the government because they’ve already switched to energy saving lamps way before the government even thought of doing so.”
Guingona adds further: “Another very important point regarding the distribution of CFLs to lifeline customers is this: economics-wise, it does not make sense. The administrative cost of distributing the lamps may be much more than the cost of the CFLs themselves. I’ve already mentioned that an energy saving lamp costs a P100 more or less. If the assistance to the lifeline customers would be in the form of a loan, the administration of let’s say, a P100 loan to each customer would be far more than the amount of the loan. Clearly, we will only be wasting money.”
“Using DPWH figures of P450,000 to P500,000 for the construction of a classroom, 1.6 billion pesos would be equivalent to 2,000 classrooms. Instead of funding pointless projects such as this, we should invest in projects that deliver real benefits to our people. Imagine, we can already build 2,000 classrooms for our children. That would have been money well spent.”
He says that as to the other components of the project, the concerned government agency should be doing these anyway and must therefore be funded by the appropriation given to them.
Overall, the project according to Guingona, is futile and senseless. He sees absolutely no reason for the government to borrow so much money to implement a useless project. “An ill-conceived and badly-designed project such is this is prone to corruption. From conception to implementation, malabo. Sa dami ng butas, makikita na natin kung saan puwedeng magkaroon ng katiwalian. Halimbawa na lamang sa procurement. Sino ang makikinabang kapag bumili tayo ng napakaraming CFLs?”
The Energy Efficiency Project of the Department of Energy is touted to be one of the major solutions of the government to address the energy crisis. “If this is the way our government is addressing the problem, borrowing heavily to finance futile projects such as these, then there really is more reason to panic,” says Guingona.
He adds that the “piecemeal” approach of the DOE towards energy is indicative of the lack of a comprehensive and coherent energy policy, which should be implemented with consistency.
“If this is the way the Department of Energy operates, we should rename it then to Department of Maintenance and Housekeeping.” he further adds. “The function of the DOE is to formulate energy policies that will be beneficial to the Filipino people and not changing light bulbs.”