The Ateneo School of Government, through the ASEP-CELLs project, successfully held the first Energy and Sustainable Development webinar on “Responding to the Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Views from the Energy Sector” last 2 July 2020. The webinar gathered notable speakers from both public and private sector, including Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Current Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, Former Department of Energy Secretary Raphael P. M. Lotilla, Meralco PowerGen President and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Rogelio L. Singson, and Dr. Laurence L. Delina of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). The webinar was held in recognition of Father Jose Ramon “Jett” T. Villarin, an environment and climate scientist and advocate, for his three distinguished terms as President of the Ateneo de Manila University.

Virtually attended by over 400 participants, the webinar offered a fruitful discussion on the impact of the current pandemic on the energy sector.

Dean Ronald U. Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government opened the webinar with a preview of the thought-provoking discussions. “We are eager to hear from our experts today about their views on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the energy sector, and map the ways through which the sector could emerge stronger. We also look forward to a discussion on plans of the government and the private sector in using the energy sector as a platform toward sustainable recovery,” said Dean Mendoza.

Dr. Delina presented a unique and sanguine Keynote Address, highlighting his vision of a 100% Renewable Energy Philippines. He also strongly urged fellow speakers to put resilience of the country’s energy sector in front and center when responding to various challenges in the industry.

An insightful plenary discussion was ably moderated by Atty. Lotilla. The panel of eminent figures in the energy industry was comprised of Senator Gatchalian, Secretary Cusi, and Mr. Singson.

Senator Gatchalian shared his insights about the effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the energy sector. He asserted that “what the pandemic presented to us is that flexibility is very important […] and that is where Renewable Energy comes in.”

From the point of view of the private sector, Mr. Singson presented the plans of Meralco PowerGen to help revive the energy sector of the country in an inclusive, socially just manner. He declared that “In the next 5-7 years, we [MERALCO PowerGen] will endeavor to generate 50% of our pipeline of projects from renewable [energy]. We have to make sure that the energy transition is just, which takes into account social development and poverty alleviation.”

Taking off from the perspective of the public sector, Secretary Cusi shared the future plans of the government regarding the transition to clean energy. He encouraged those who work in the public energy sector to strike a balance between meeting our current energy needs and building a better world for the coming generations – as one of these concerns cannot be sacrificed in favor of the other. “Our country is blessed with abundant source of Renewable Energy […] we need to maximize geothermal and hydroelectricity power as they have proven their reliability,” said Sec. Cusi.

ASEP-CELLs led by Dr. Josef T. Yap and Ms. Cecilia G. Benavidez also shared key milestones of the project and its future course with regard to supporting the DOE in achieving 100% rural electrification in the Philippines by 2030.

Fr. Jett Villarin concluded the Webinar with his response and takeaways from the discussion. He shared that this pandemic just shows how vulnerable we are as a society. In his final remarks, Fr. Jettreflected, “I hope this will inspire us to rise from this crisis and see this as an opportunity [that will allow us to] build a safer, more beautiful world.”

Access to Sustainable Energy Programme-Clean Energy Living Laboratories (ASEP-CELLs) is a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) in partnership with Manila Observatory (MO), ICLEI-SEAS, Xavier University (XU) and University of San Carlos (USC). The project supports the Department of Energy and European Union in achieving 100% rural electrification through renewable energy, thus increasing the share of renewable energy in the Philippines’ energy mix, and promoting energy efficiency towards sustainable and inclusive growth.