Bohol has again wowed the world by its impressive hosting of the Asian energy conference, which inputs are useful to how the province bridges its own gap of power supply between now and the future.
The 34-country delegates to the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Conference Towards Energy Security, Sustainability and Resiliency ended their four-day meeting at the Be Grand Resort in Panglao on Thursday.
They are expected to issue a formal consolidated policy statement encompassing the energy issues concerns and common direction they tackled and may term it as the ACD “Bohol Declaration.”
The declaration can become an important term of reference for Asia’s energy summit in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
But while it is yet to be issued after the final consolidation, many delegates are already keen on coming back to Bohol along with their families for leisure and pleasure, even with investor friends.
“To achieve energy sustainability, we need to focus on three important things—incentives, investments, and innovation,” Department of Energy (DOE) Sec. Alfonso Cusi said in his conference keynote address.
In the panel interview with the media during the opening ceremonies, Cusi even recognized the innovative creation of Gov. Edgar Chatto called the Bohol Energy Development Advisory Group (BEDAG).
After his welcome speech, Chatto was asked to join the panel who included His Excellency Matar Alneyadi, Ministry of Energy, United Arab Emirates, and ACD Secretary-General Bundit Limschoon of Thailand.
The governor thanked the DOE secretary for giving honor and bringing benefits to Bohol through the historic, relevant and useful meeting here of the energy ministers and policy makers from across the world’s biggest continent.
The DOE was the agency hosting the conference, which was the first ever held by the ACD in the Philippines with no less than Bohol as the host province.
Chatto said the conference was “perfectly timed” as Bohol’s energy development initiatives are in congruence with the conference’s focus areas—energy security, sustainability and resiliency.
The delegates talked about renewable energy for a clean future, natural gas as transition fuel, mainstreaming energy efficiency, renewed role of nuclear energy, and energy access, connectivity, and resilience.
Now having 34 member states since formed in 2002, the ACD is a gathering of Asian countries to promote interdependence in all areas of cooperation, one of which on energy—and its connection to water and food.
The current ACD members are Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Turkey and Nepal.
The conference also had affiliated meetings in separate venues—the 1st East Asia Energy Forum at the Be Grand Hotel and the Economic Research Institute Network (ERIN) Meeting at the Hennan Hotel.
“Renewable energy is good and climate change is real,” said Dr. Xu Yifan of the China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute.
“But in this industry,” he said, “equally two important things to consider are how much it will cost and who will pay for it.”
Therefore, the “decision makers should have more inclination to exchange ideas and experiences like what we are doing here in this conference” Xu said.
There were also delegates from other ACD partner experts like the International Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA), Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEEJ), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO) in Thailand, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), Manila Electric Company (MERALCO), and SN Aboitiz Power Group.
“What we need to do is to create an Asian economic community and connectivity, to share resources and to inspire each other,” Said Dato Mohamed Razali Dato Yusoff of the Nusantara Technologies, Malaysia.
In his welcome speech, Chatto said Bohol could learn from the conference to take more proactive and pragmatic approaches to ensure power supply security and attain resiliency in the long term.
He said these have, in fact, been taken by the province, recounting the epic earthquake in 2013 as the turning point that has led to such concrete actions like the creation of the BEDAG.
The BEDAG is chaired by the governor with the DOE secretary as co-chairman.
The group serves as the primary advisor of the province and provides a mechanism for obtaining multi-sectoral inputs, recommendations and technical aids related to energy and power development.
The province, thru the BEDAG, has engaged with the potential investors in finding appropriate technologies to augment supply and address factors like lest cost, reliability and environmental impact.
Apart from this engagement to result in large-scale island-based power generation facilities, Bohol is also pushing with the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) for the Cebu-Bohol interconnection.
“Our steadfast stand to make the interconnection happen has a two-fold benefit,” Chatto said in the conference.
First, the interconnection will improve the supply reliability considering the province’s expected power demand increase—or faster increase.
Supplementing the power forecast are the major infrastructure projects currently done like the new Bohol airport in Panglao, international cruise ship and domestic ports, and roads and bridges leading to business parks and economic zones.
Second, Bohol will have a direct access to power generation in Cebu, serving as an alternate source and reducing Bohol’s dependence on the facilities in Leyte.
The Leyte power facilities are yet to be fully restored after the recent strong earthquake there.
“Energy is intertwined with the economy, and so are tourism, agriculture and information technology,” said Chatto, citing further the three as the engines of Bohol’s development and growth.
The delegates said Bohol and its people were truly captivating so that many of them expressed strong interest to return and enjoy here for a longer time along with their families and friends.
In a send-off gathering at the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday, some of them also liked to know deeper of the Bohol leader.
They asked Chatto himself to share his experiences as public servant, government figure and political timber.
A proud governor told them that the Boholanos participate in governance, thus, making the people involve themselves in the pursuit of the province’s shared leadership.
Listening to Chatto, General Energy Planning Division Chief Walujanto of Indonesia’s National Energy Council remarked to a local media member beside him that he was “reminded of their president.”
Close to the ear of the mediaman, then he asked, rather candidly, “Is he running for president?”
His Excellency Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar of the Ministry of Energy and Industry, Brunei Darussalam told Chatto he would bring to Bohol the conferences, seminars and workshops of his government.
For 38 years his rich country’s longest serving minister, Umar looked more excited in his plan to bring to Bohol their king no less, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah.
The minister, who asked the governor for a “selfie,” described Bohol as the “best island” in the Philippines he has ever gone to.
Xu, the head of the China Renewabole Energy Enggineering Institute, wrote his impression of Bohol, which he called a “paradise.”
Referring to the hospitality team led by Liza Flores of the governor’s office’s Special Projects Unit, Xu commended the “liaison officers who are so kind and professional.”
One of the conference highlights was the conversion of kerosene lamps into solar lamps, under the Liter of Light Program, by the school children and delegates for use of the settlers in Balicasag island, a part of panglao.
“The Liter of Light is a genius idea which combines energy with people. I understand ‘people power’ better when I see this,” the Chinese delegate said.
Also in a note, SN Aboitiz Power Group President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Yu wrote, “I want to reserve special thanks to the local team and the Boholanos.”
He described the Bohol’s hosting as “extremely well-planned,” adding that “the quality, detail and depth of the presentations were impressive, and the networking was special.”
But it was the “hospitality (which) was the special ingredient that pushed this workshop from being competent to fabulous,” Yu said.
One of the invited resource persons, Austrian Dr. Jorge Leon also left a note, which reads: “This has been my first time in Bohol. I have to say that I have found this place to be a fascinating island.”
Leon is the energy demand analyst for Energy Studies Development, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
He further wrote, “The landscape is amazing. The beaches are beautiful with crystal waters and white sand. The Chocolate Hills are fantastic.”
But Leon would “want to emphasize and highlight that what I liked the most was the hospitality of the people. Boholanos are extremely friendly and helpful. They made this trip unforgettable. I will definitely come back.”
Chatto shared to the delegates Bohol’s improving tourism as proven by the province’s annual tourist arrival that already surpassed the one million mark as of 2016. (Ven rebo Arigo)