Bacolod, Iloilo as ‘growth pole’ pushed

NATIONAL scientist Dr. Raul Fabella is advocating in making the twin cities – Bacolod and Iloilo – in Western Visayas (WV) as “growth pole” to attract more investors to the region.

He was in Bacolod City Wednesday, April 11, for the Regional Scientific Meeting in the Visayas held at L’Fisher Hotel.

He believes the tandem will lower power cost and increase power supply, citing the initiatives by sugar mills in those areas that now engage in biomass power generation.

“Bacolod and Iloilo tandem is fantastic and luckily enough, these two cities will have a lower power cost in the future because of the investments that will have come in these areas,” he said.

At the moment, Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) still buys power from Kepco in Cebu.

“But in the future, it will reverse, Kepco will have to serve Cebu as it also grows rapidly and it will have to buy electricity from Negros, that is why I am very interested in that submarine cable. In the future, Negros will no longer be known as the sugar bowl and sugar barons, Negros will be known as a source of power and electricity. Plus all the manufacturing that may come with cheap power in WV,” Fabella said.

“As we are a surplus economy now, this means that the future is almost here. We only need to improve the submarine cables. Ceneco is still bound for its 25-year contract with Kepco. But once it expires, it might be the case that new contracts will be local and no longer come from Kepco. It can even come from Iloilo as it is putting up coal plants. The Western Visayas will become self-sufficient in power but also an exporting region in power,” he said.

Negros will soon become a biomass generation center of the country with its co-generation efforts initiated by milling companies in the province, he added.

He said Victorias Milling Company, Southern Negros Development Corporation in Kabankalan City and Azucarera de La Carlota are engaging in biomass power with an overall power production of between 200 to 350 megawatts of power.

“We have few biomass co-generation projects that are already producing electricity but we don't have enough engineers,” Fabella said.

The province also has a tremendous solar power supply and so with Iloilo, he said, adding the deficit of power in is Manila. “They have red and yellow alerts in their power capacity.”

Fabella said that if the submarine cables are adequate, they will sell their power to Metro Manila and those yellow and red alerts will become less frequent.

He said that if they also connect it with Mindanao, which already has submarine cable, they will be able to sell it to Mindanao and the people can sell to Metro Manila

“Prices and supply will stabilize. Prices will actually go down because there is a bigger market and deficits in certain regions will be answered by surpluses in other regions,” he said.

The problem is that the submarine cable between Leyte, Cebu, and Negros is very limited and the solar power suffers from rationing of the highway.

“Our advocacy as Negrenses is really to upgrade the submarine cables,” Fabella said.

He explained: “The nice thing about being a power surplus economy is that power is readily available. This will attract a lot of investors especially those manufacturing industries.”

He added that the growth of manufacturing is heavily and positively affected by lower power cost.

He pushed for Iloilo and Bacolod, or twin West Visayan city, as a growth pole.

“If there is tremendous growth here, it will counter the attraction of the National Capital Region (NCR) in Metro Manila. Instead of going to Manila, investors will come to this growth pole which will provide jobs and the cost of power will be lower,” said Fabella, who is among the 13 national scientists in the country.

Academician Jaime Montoya, chairman of the Health and Sciences Division of National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines, said that national scientists are considered as the country’s natural treasures.

“We cannot actually say that there will be no young person to become national scientists but the value and the contribution that they make to the Philippines is actually tested through time,” Montoya said.

“You cannot have a significant impact if you are relatively young. But it does not mean that the young people are not involved. In fact, some of the academicians, which are the second level, may become national scientists in the future given the test of time and their contributions that they do as they impact on different fields and sectors in the Philippines, Montoya said.

“A number of academicians are young. We have the outstanding young scientists group,” he added.

Dost-Western Visayas director Rowen Gelonga said there are more people who push through careers in science and technology.

“We need to continually support the Human Resource Department in the Science and Technology. The Unesco ballpark figure has that in order for a country to attain and sustain economic development, we need 380 scientists and researchers for a middle population,” Gelonga said.

Gelonga added that the figures provided by the Science Education Institute, which is another agency under Dost, are somewhere along 280 and they are trying their best to reach that figure of 380 for a middle population.

“The reason why Dost keeps on expanding its scholarship program and we are happy to announce in the country, we ranked somewhere along between number four or number five in terms of scholars,” Gelonga said.


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