DOE asks Indonesia to lift coal export ban 

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi has appealed to Indonesia’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Arifin Tasrif, for the lifting of its coal export ban as this would have an adverse impact on the availability of electricity supply in the Philippines, according to a report by Manila Bulletin.

In a letter to the Indonesian energy minister, Cusi cited “the healthy economic cooperation between the Philippines and Indonesia” while he stipulated that the recent policy restraining Indonesian coal exports “will be detrimental to economies that currently rely on coal-fired power generation systems like the Philippines.”

Last Dec. 31, 2021, the Indonesian directorate-general of Mineral and Coal had formally announced the export ban for the entire January this year, and that was reportedly taken as a course of action “to avert a looming power crisis in Indonesia.”

Indonesia is the biggest coal supplier to the Philippines and bulk of electricity generation in the country are also from coal-fired power plants.

The Department of Energy (DOE) conveyed that Cusi had furnished Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin of his letter, and had also “requested the DFA to intercede and appeal on behalf of the Philippines, through the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) cooperation mechanism.”

To prepare for contingencies, the Electric Power Industry Management Bureau of the DOE will convene affected industry stakeholders in the power industry on Tuesday, Jan. 11 “to discuss potential strategies and the way forward.”

Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian earlier flagged the energy department on the highly probable dilemma that will torment the power sector and the Filipino consumers especially if the coal export ban of Indonesia will be sustained in the months ahead, which to his assessment could trigger blackouts in the country.

On top of possible shortage of fuel, the lawmaker also aired possible scenario that any supply replacement may come at prohibitive prices; and that too could drive up the electric bills of Filipino consumers.

As emphasized, power supply during the summer months will be highly critical – not just because of the scorching weather that will drive up demand — but it is also an election period and the country is still stepping up as well on its COVID-19 vaccination program.

Reliable and sufficient power supply will likewise be paramount in the country’s economic recovery post-COVID, hence, the DOE is prodded to ensure that the coal plants will have buffer on their fuel inventories.

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