March 5, 2024

In line with the pronouncement of the Marcos administration that the country must shift its focus to renewable energy, the new leadership of the Regional Development Council-Cordillera is training its sights on the development of renewable energy, which the region has in abundance.
During its quarterly meeting early this month, Apayao Gov. Elias Bulut Jr., newly- appointed chairperson of RDC-CAR, recommended focusing on harnessing the region’s RE and for the members to constitute themselves as ReDC-CAR.
Bulut said it is a shame that the region is not harnessing these God-given resources.
“While we are considered as the watershed cradle of north Luzon, we just watch as water flows from the headwaters to the rivers and its tributaries. The Department of Energy estimated that CAR has the potential to supply 3,600 megawatts of electricity from hydroelectric sources, and yet we are only producing five percent of that potential,” Bulut said.
Bulut has acknowledged the development of RE takes time, but he said this should not deter the region from starting now.
He said by focusing on RE, local governments and agencies can improve its processes to comply with the ease of doing business requirements.
He reminded the law provides incentives to the development and use of RE, and the region is not exempted from giving these concessions to those who are willing and able to invest in these businesses.
With the Cordillera being an indigenous peoples’ region, Bulut counts on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to find a way to conduct the free prior and informed consent process properly and efficiently so as not to discourage and drive away investors. The RDC committee on IP concerns is chaired by Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. of Mountain Province.
“Once RE businesses are set up, employment opportunities arise and economic activities will be revitalized. We envision a flourishing region especially in the depressed areas,” he said.
Abra Mayor Joseph Bernos chairs the regional social development committee.
Since RE power plants are expensive to put up, Bulut is also counting on direct foreign investments, and in this case he said concerned line agencies regulating the influx of financial resources from abroad will come in.
“We need to open our doors to possible investors who can contribute to our regional economy and possibly provide sources of income to our fellow Cordillerans in line with the current administration’s thrust towards poverty reduction and job creation. I also believe this is critical in ensuring fiscal stability towards a truly autonomous region,” he said.
Gov. James Edubba of Kalinga as chair of the economic development committee is in charge of this task.
Bulut also stressed on peace and order, describing it as the “humus that will accelerate the growth of energy industry in the Cordillera.”
“When we say we will focus on RE, it does not have to mean we will build power plants within our terms. If it is still doubtful that Apayao can contribute to the realization of ReDC, improving the peace and order situation is in itself a key result area that will bring us closer to our goal,” he said.
He said these preparations will result in marked and felt social development, including special attention to the concerns of IPs, which will be bridged by RDC co-chair Edna Tabanda for her vast experience in connecting with the grassroots.
Bulut added one of his priorities is to have RDC facilitate the creation of a region-wide infrastructure plan through the RDC’s infrastructure development committee chaired by Ifugao Gov. Jerry Dalipog, because “no renewable energy power plant will break ground without the necessary infrastructure to support it.”
Bulut said all these will be done with utmost consideration to environment and watershed protection.
“As much as we are to use our resources in development, we should also keep in mind the protection of our environment towards a more sustainable progress in the region,” he said.
Aside from the comprehensive land use plans of LGUs, he said it is also high time to have a forest land use plan in every LGU with comprehensive maps.
“There will be no waters to supply hydropower without forests,” he said.
Benguet Gov. Melchor Diclas heads the watershed and environment management committee.
Bulut said for RDC to succeed in its plans, another of its theme is good governance, which he said should not just be for lip service.
With Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong at the helm of the development administration committee, Bulut said they also hope to strengthen the preparation of local development plans of LGUs to increase the regional share from the national budget and review the implementation of Executive Order 138 and capacitate LGUs further for full devolution.
He challenged each RDC committee to list the things they want to achieve and the indicators of success (objectives and key results) with focus on RE. – Hanna C. Lacsamana