One of the ‘downers’ about living in the Philippines is the continual nay saying and horrible self image of most Filipinos toward their own country. Even people in the position top know better seem to be addicted to the theme of couching everything they say in the “Oh poor us, we’re a third-world country that can’t get anything done” mode. Government routinely trumpets the “heroism” of OFW’s (Overseas Filipino Workers) exporting the country’s precious education and talent resources to other countries who didn’t make the investment, but reap the benefits. Anyone who wants to work as an OFW should certainly have the right to, but hailing them as “heroes” when in fact they are primary examples of the failure of the system ought to stop.
Every Filipino working as a nurse in the US by necessity, or every engineer cleaning toilets in Saudi Arabia because it pays more than being an engineering teacher in the Philippines is not a ‘hero’, but instead ad example of the government and especially the media conglomerates of the Philippines being willing to take the easy way out … accepting money as being more important than principle. It rankles me.
Take one very important modern-day issue and look at how the Philippines deals with it, rather than how they “might” deal with it if the pride of the Philippines and its people were more important than a ‘fast buck’. Energy.
Unlike the US or an even worse energy addict, Japan, the Philippines can today satisfy 100% of its energy needs internally, if the present leadership decided not to listen to the “scriptures of George Bush” and other noted Saudi Arabian apologists. To a large extent the Philippines government and its academic community already knows this, but perhaps in the spirit of delicadeza or some other misguided effort to avoid offense even if it is needed they are reluctant to promote their own accomplishments. Great example of personal ‘meekness’. Horrible example of how a government is supposed to lead.
Let’s look at three major energy areas where the Philippines could turn from beggar to baron almost overnight:
Oil: I’m a big believer we should wean ourselves from much of our oil consumption much more aggressively than we are doing now. But, of course, we can’t do that overnight and oil will be an important source of fuel for decades to come. In some ways, that’s the bad news. But the good news is, the Philippines has oil! Now that’s good news in a world still overly dependent on it. Not in huge volumes yet, but the Galoc oilfield shows that it’s out there. I’ve little doubt more will be found. More on the oil and other misguided Philippine ‘heroism’ here in Peter Wallace’s column, a long-time out-spoken foreign commentator here in the Philippines.
Now if the government would spend half the amount of free ‘jawboning’ on this issue that they have spent ballyhooing a second-rate boxer beating a third-rate cross-dresser as a “Filipino hero”, we might get someplace.
Expand the operations in Galoc and don’t sell the oil on the open market like the other OPEC opportunists, pump it directly into the Philippine economy … or better yet, sell it at a big premium to China who is already a partner and needs oil desperately. Let’s make home-grown energy production the Manny Paquiao of the future, I doubt even Manny himself would object.
Bio Fuels: Now of course Galoc can’t immediately supply the entire energy needs of the Philippines. But it can be stretched out an made much more profitable with bio supplements. When the Philippines was the ‘Tiger of Asia’ in the 1950’s, two of the major crops that powered the economy were sugar and copra.(derivative of coconut production). Now the ares that were once rich with this trade are pretty much poor … the island of Negros is a prime example. Can you imagine how much ethanol can be produced in just one season if the cane fields of Negros were put to use making this important bio-fuel? In warm climates like the Philippines ethanol can be used in much higher percentages than in cold countries, and it’s nearly energy-free to make … the distilleries to break down the sugar are relative cheap and most of the energy can come from bagasse, the sugar cane production waste.
Bagasse , by the way, is typically just burned in the open air these days, causing pollution when it could at least be used in existing coal-fired power plants that the Philippines still depends upon. Cash crop, energy independence, very little infrastructure investment. Is the Philippines waiting for Chevron or Total or some other foreign oil giant to tell them to take the first step?
In addition to Ethanol type fuels the Philippines has millions of under-used hectares that could be put into bio-oil production, including palm oil from the nearly dead copra plantations. There are even better oil plants as well, like jojoba which will grow on higher ground that can never be effectively irrigated for rice and other ‘wet crop’ production. Like ethanol, jojoba oil can directly supplement diesel fuel at very low infrastructure costs .. while providing honest work for Filipinos in-country.
I’ll touch just briefly on Methane here as well. The University of the Philippines is already a would leader in setting up small-scale, village-sized ,methane production systems … bringing light and power to folks that would have none of they wait4d for the Meralco’s of the world to do the math. Methane digestion removes manure from the environment, captures and uses the otherwise highly polluting gas and the residue after digestion is excellent organic crop fertilizer. India already has several small cities running exclusively on methane production from dairy farms. Just recently my colleague Randy C. reported on a dairy farm going to their own methane production to offset power costs.
The hardware and the techniques are well know and within the means of small business … if only government would quit the propaganda that says we are dependent upon the oil princes.
I’ve saved the “big gun” until last. Geothermal.
One of the combination blessings and curses of the Philippines is that it sits on the Pacific “ring of fire”, a very active geologic zone where tectonic plates are colliding and volcanic activity is frequent. Nobody can harness a Pinatubo or a Mayon when they decide to erupt.
But the blessing part is, almost every large island has active geothermal areas where natural steam is available at usable depths under the earth.
All modern electric generation, whether coal, oil , nuclear or solar-powered is based on heat making steam to turn a turbine to power a generator.
The Philippines already has a world-class geothermal plant on Leyte (which even powers much of Cebu as well) and on Luzon. There may be others, and there ought to be many more.
The technology is well advanced, the technical knowledge is already available in the Philippines and the environmental benefits as well as the freedom from fossil fuel dependence is wonderful.
Has anyone every heard even a minor government official or a local newscaster refer to the Filipino engineers and technicians who are already making geothermal work, and work economically as ‘heroes’?
This is much more an issue of attitude and leadership than it is an issue of technology and finance. As long as the Philippine government values opportunistic boxers and foreign laborers as more ‘heroic’ than the Filipinos who apply their schooling and make things work here in the Philippines it is unlikely we’ll see the country live up top its true potential.
We need more Filipino flag waving for the right causes and less reliance on the World Bank and other countries who have no interest in the Philippines except cheap labor.
A re-definition of heroism is long overdue, methinks.