Jericho Petilla

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Carlos Jericho Petilla(Photo by Department of Energy. Some rights reserved)

Carlos Jericho Loreto Petilla or Icot Petilla of Palo, Leyte is the Secretary of the Department of Energy. At 49 years of age, he was appointed as successor to Jose Rene Almendras and formally took his oath of office before President Benigno Simeon Aquino III at NAIA Terminal 2 at noontime of November 4 2012. He formally stepped down as Leyte governor, on his third and last term, and officially assumed his post as Department of Energy Secretary on November 5 2012.


Initial Plans as a New Appointee

Because Icot Petilla believed that President Aquino has a sincere desire to improve how things are run in the country so that we can be competitive and he thought that helping the President was the least he could do, he accepted the position.

Petilla shared with news anchor Jing Magsaysay via live phone interview that on his first day as cabinet secretary, he needed to assess the situation of the energy sector. He added that even before he stepped into DoE, he looked into information about the organization, the funding of the office of the attached agencies. His priorities are pressing issues hounding the consumers such as putting an end to the rotating brownouts in Mindanao. He would get the statistics from the staff of DoE and validate them before any drastic action was done. He explained that the details about his new position such as stabilizing power supply in the short and long term, projecting the power demand growth rate of the country and how it was going to be met, sources of power e.g. natural gas, how to expand geothermal, problems affecting generation considering that environmentalists oppose the use of coal, effect of other sources of power on environment, were discussed with former secretary Almendras. He believed that energy problems were long term problems and the solution was also long-term, and what we should be looking at was a balance among generation, transmission and distribution. He declined to comment on the status of the balance of the three on his first day. He said that actions were being done and he was simply taking off from where Sec. Almendras left, and that was a good foundation already, and he would improve what he could.

In another interview with Rappler, Petilla declined to comment on the fact that the Philippines has the most expensive electricity rates in Asia except to say that he wanted to look at statistics, the real reason, the overall picture first before deciding and acting on anything. He added that he would be looking into cheap power sources, other than geothermal. He related that his exposure to the power sector was only as a governor securing his constituents’ power supply by dealing with electric cooperatives and power plant operators. Cooperatives want rates to be affordable and power generators will not put up plants if they are not assured of payments from cooperatives, and there are cooperatives that have been delinquent in payments and those whose contracts are about to expire.

In another interview, Petilla admitted that he was worried that rates may shoot up if renewable energy would be mainly used to address energy needs. Since he is new in the department, he would be bringing in a transition team composed of a legal expert and process-oriented individuals.

Makabayan party list representative Teddy Casiño’s message for the new secretary was to prioritize the Mindanao power crisis and to act on the recommendations reached at the Mindanao Power Summit in April 2012, that were left unheeded during the tenure of former Secretary Almendras.

Greenpeace would like to welcome the new secretary by touring him to communities affected by coal-fired power plants and those struggling against building of coal plants in their domain. They were hoping that once he saw coal’s impacts, he would no longer favor coal as an energy source and fully enforce the Renewable Energy Law instead.

On the Job

At the celebration of National Energy Consciousness Month, when Petilla was asked if there would be a revision of the installation target for renewable energy projects, he said he would like to keep the target where it was. Neither would he increase the capacity allocation for solar and wind power projects. Any increase in allocation would be burdened by the consumers. But because there was an oversubscription on the solar and wind projects, he was looking into drafting a different policy to address this concern without needing to revise the installation targets.

The Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) 2012-2030 was launched by DoE on December 19 2012 with the vision of building a low-carbon economy. The plan, according to Petilla, was based on the former energy framework but used updated figures. This was so that measures and policies that were originally meant to have long-term benefits would be effective. The Secretary added that transparency was needed to encourage public participation in meeting the objectives of the Energy Reform Agenda of the government.

Though Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda had already stated in early 2012 that Japan’s nuclear disaster strengthened the government’s decision not to revive Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Petilla stated that nuclear power investments would increase power supply in some areas of the country; it was also cheaper and environment-friendly. He pledged to provide a level playing field for investors. He said that they were still open to discussions. In the light of the Fukushima incident, the issue of nuclear energy had to be looked into again, factoring in the safety concerns.

Anna Abad, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, an environmental organization that advocates clean and renewable sources of energy , said that Greenpeace was shocked at DoE’s proposal to use nuclear energy and criticized the Aquino administration for wasting years of pushing unclean coal and nuclear energy as energy sources.

Her group asked Petilla to drop his plans of reviving the use of nuclear energy in the Philippines since nuclear energy has not been established globally as a “clean, cheap, safe or reliable energy source.”

Personal Life

Petilla’s parents, Leopoldo E. Petilla and Remedios Matin Loreto, were also former governors of Leyte. Remedios also became congressman of Leyte’s first district and is incumbent Palo mayor. He only entered politics when he ran for and won as Leyte governor at age 40. The Secretary is known to be an eloquent public speaker who is fluent in Tagalog, English, Cebuano and Waray. He is married to Frances Ann Regis Basilio with whom he has five children.

Education and Work Experience

Under Icot’s tenure as Leyte governor, a 6.9 hectare lot at Pawing, Palo, Leyte was turned into the Leyte Information Communication Technology Park or Leyte ICoT Park. He also led the drafting of the Rules and Regulations of Leyte Province Investment Code of 2004 that offered 100% real estate tax holiday for 5 years.




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