SOME 600 megawatts of power commitments, most of which are coal-powered, is expected for the Visayas grid until 2019, data from the Department of Energy (DOE) showed.

DOE Science Research Specialist Noriel Christopher Reyes said power plants with a total capacity of 607.4 megawatts (MW) will go online between the second semester of 2016 and 2019. Of this, 420 MW will be coal-fired.

According to Reyes, the soonest and the largest to start commercial operations will be the 150-MW coal-fired power plant expansion of the Panay Energy Development Corp. (PEDC) of the Global Business Power Corp (GBP) in La Paz, Iloilo this August.

The remaining power sources is a mix of geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and diesel. Reyes said geothermal is the biggest power source in the Visayas, followed by coal.

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte said he will prioritize the issuance of required permits for power development, implying his nod for the utilization of coal as power source.

“I directed the concerned regulatory agencies to prioritize the issuance of required permits for power development,” Duterte said.

The President has said he will not honor the December 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, which the Philippines signed along with 200 countries. DOE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, in a statement, said the country will instead adopt a “strategic fuel policy mix.”

“While we signed the Paris agreement last year committing ourselves to limit our carbon emissions, we cannot ignore the fact that our level of economic development at this point does not allow us to rely completely on renewable energy sources or clean energy,” Cusi said.

“We need to build more baseload power plants while also aggressively pushing for clean energy,” he added.

Sought for comment, Reyes affirmed that the country still has yet to depend on a more stable power source like coal to fuel its growing economy.

“Hindi naman natin dinideny na in terms of emission , mas okay talaga ang renewable. Pero hindi natin pwede sabihin na we can do away with coal sa ngayon (We’re not denying that, in terms of emissions, renewable energy is a better option. But we also cannot drop coal for now). Maybe, it’s a gradual process as we progress,” Reyes said at the sidelines of the GBP-hosted Energy 101 Summit yesterday.

Likewise, GBP external affairs manager Sheryl P. Delos Santos underscored the importance of securing a stable power supply if the country intends to invite more investors.

In the first semester of this year, Reyes said 238 MW of dependable capacity was added to the Visayas grid. The powerplants, limited to solar and diesel, were all located in Negros Occidental.