His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the launch of the National Renewable Energy Program
[As delivered at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel on June 14, 2011]
I’m sure we’ve all been thoroughly briefed on NREP. Thanks to the enlightenment of Secretary Almendras, no detail was left unrevealed.
In a mountain in a far-flung province, there is a child now in a school without electricity. A few hours from now, he will go home, tired from the long day, to a house without electricity. When the clock strikes 6:00p.m., he will have to light a candle just to do his homework. Electricity is something that many of us take for granted; but in this day and age, for some people, like this child’s family, it remains a luxury, if not an unfulfilled dream. This cannot stand, and this is one of many problems the energy sector is confronting today, and which will be addressed by the National Renewable Energy Program.
I have said many times before that renewable energy is vital in moving this country forward. It empowers more than our cities, more than our machines, and more than just entire industries. Renewable energy fuels our movement toward the rebuilding of this nation. Renewable energy will fuel our future.
Through this program, renewable energy will be able to give that child in the mountain a light through which he can learn his lessons at home. More than that, fifth-class municipalities in Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, Kalinga, and Antique, among others, will soon be able to send their children to schools powered by renewable energy, through the hard work of those present here today and all those who are working for this cause.
But more than lighting up these barrios, the National Renewable Energy Program today points us in the right direction in terms of finding long-term and sustainable energy sources. Our launch today is a symbolic first step in our journey toward fulfilling our vision of a Philippines unbound from the vagaries of the world oil market—a Philippines where we can choose not to sacrifice the environment, particularly the air we breathe, just to power our industries.
We have already experienced some moderate success in this regard. Just a couple of months ago, we launched 20 e-tricycles in the city of Mandaluyong. These e-tricycles will not only lessen our carbon emissions, they will also increase the profit margins of our tricycle drivers. With news like this, it is difficult not to be optimistic. Even Filipinos who are not actively part of this program are making strides in improving our potential for energy sufficiency. Last year, for example, a team of Filipino students placed second in an international competition in Kuala Lumpur for designing a prototype vehicle that can run 241 kilometers on just one liter of gas. This is more reason for optimism for all Filipinos.
But do not get me wrong. The road ahead promises a long grueling journey. Some forms of renewable energy remain expensive and it may take some more time before their prices can become competitive. Because of this, some, perhaps, will say that the pursuit of renewable energy is a waste of time and resources.
I cannot govern by disregarding our future. We need real solutions; economic development should not come at the cost of our environment. And with this program we are doing everything possible to pursue the twin goals of harnessing our renewable energy potential while ensuring that our people’s energy needs are met. With this in mind, the plan is to nearly triple our renewable energy-based capacity from around 5,400 megawatts in 2010 to 15,300 megawatts in 2030.
Some are already concerned that our increased renewable energy generation will lead to a rise in the price of electricity. But the Department of Energy is confident that, along with the Energy Regulation Commission and the National Renewable Energy Board, the government will be able to keep a watchful eye on these prices to keep an optimum balance between the interests of our consumers and preserving the environment for future generations.
What we want is simple: we want to do away with the perception that a cleaner future and affordable power prices are conflicting ideas. Our objective is for our people to experience both. And what we will do is ease into these emerging technologies so that their economic impacts will not cause a shock to our consumers. We want to pave the way for the maturity of our renewable energy sources such that we can provide predictable, affordable, and fair electricity pricing for each and every Filipino.
We are not content with our modest successes, and recognize that much work remains to be done. We cannot afford to be satisfied so long as there are still children who are not receiving the quality of education they deserve simply because of a lack of electricity. We cannot afford to be satisfied until we have created a level playing field in which every Filipino can succeed so long as he gives it his best.
And why do we do this given all the challenges we have to hurdle? Can we not just sit back and address our problems in the here and now? Do we not have enough problems as it is?
The bottom line is that we were put into office because we want to make life better for our countrymen. We want to free Filipino consumers from the punishment and the instability that staggering world oil prices have been wont to bring about. I want to make this possible not only now, or until the end of my term. I want future Filipinos to reap the fruits of the efforts we have sown today.
To say this is a difficult task would be an understatement. To do this, we need your help. We need your commitment. This is, after all, a 20-year program we are launching, so allow me to appeal to everyone here: be involved—from paying attention to curbing your own carbon footprint, to aspiring to become the next big green entrepreneur. Any way that you can help your country would be welcome assistance as well. What each and every one of us does counts.
What we need to do is to fulfill our roles in the collective task of rebuilding this country. The daylight has finally dawned, and it is our duty as Filipinos to make certain we walk under its guidance. I especially invite the youth, who are the future of the Philippines, to join this government and their elders, as we all help make this daylight a continuing reality, so that no smog, no darkness will ever enshroud us again.
Thank you and good day.