April 28, 2024 People's Journal 102 views

MEMBERS of the House of Representatives are appealing to the Senate for swift action on proposed legislation that would lay down state policy for the full development of the Philippine natural gas industry.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, author of House Bill 8456, or the proposed Philippine Downstream Natural Gas Industry (PDNGI) Development Act, said the measure is a legislative priority of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“It is a LEDAC and SONA priority, so I hope the Senate acts on it and we enact it before the midterms,” said Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means and a noted economist.

“The base version of the Senate bill under deliberation is the House version, so more or less I expect no major differences once it gets out of committee and plenary,” he said.

Salceda said the bill’s passage was needed as natural gas produces 32-40 percent less emission than coal when used for power generation.

“It could help the transition away from coal as we wait for renewables to become cheaper and more dependable as baseload,” Salceda said.

However, the lawmaker stressed that legislation was needed to put in place a “full value chain with proper infrastructure.”

According to Salceda, safeguards should be made part of the state’s natural gas policy because “the key issue with natural gas is methane emissions.”

“There are ways to get rid of that, but you have to do it through the whole value-chain,” Salceda said.

He said the bill’s enactment into law would sharply reduce Philippine dependence on imported fuel.

“We can’t just be an importer and not have a regulatory regime or complementary infrastructure after importation. We need this law,” Salceda stressed.

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, chair of the House committee on energy and another author of the bill, said the proposed legislation would promote the Philippines as a liquefied natural gas trading and transshipment hub in Asia Pacific.

“The bill aims to promote the role of natural gas as a safe, environment-friendly, efficient and cost-effective source of energy,” Velasco, former Speaker, said in the bill’s explanatory note.

He lamented the lack of clear, comprehensive and integrated policies on the natural gas industry which “is detrimental to the thrust of the Department of Energy to attract foreign investors to our natural gas potentials or importation or transmission of the same.”

HB 8456 mandates the DOE to be the lead government agency in the proposed PDNGI.

The DOE role in the development of the Philippines’ natural gas industry will include supervision and monitoring of the proposed system.

It would also regulate construction and operation of natural gas pipelines and other facilities for the transmission and supply of natural gas.

It gives the Energy Regulatory Commission sole regulatory authority for setting rates and other terms covering natural gas supply.

At the Senate, Sen. Raffy Tulfo filed Senate Bill 2247, which is now being reviewed by a technical working group.

SB 2247 would promote the development of a comprehensive and integrated legislative policy that aids in the rapid development of the Philippines’ natural gas sector.

Tulfo had said the bill would support the development of new wells in light of the depleting volume of gas from the Malampaya field.

Tulfo had said the bill was urgent because it would not only extend the life of Malampaya gas but also unleash the potential of new wells near the existing field.

Malampaya supplies 20 percent of the Luzon’s electricity requirements.