Pioneering Inclusive Growth in the Philippine Natural Gas Industry
‘Inclusive growth’ has become the current buzzword. Some say it’s a myth, others say that the country is a long way from it. The Philippines’ robust economy would have made it easy to believe that middle-class comforts are now within the reach of the majority of Filipinos. Studies tell otherwise.
There are more and more jobless Filipinos based from the National Statistics Office (NSO) Labor Force Survey and nearly half of them are youths ages 15-24. In April this year, unemployment rose to 7.5 percent from the 6.9 percent recorded on the same period in 2012. The current unemployment rate was the highest since the eight percent in 2010.
And with unemployment comes poverty. A study by the Asian Development Bank and the National University of Singapore concluded that 18 million Filipinos live on just 50 pesos a day.
Indeed, poverty and unemployment are still rampant social problems that make the broadcasted growth nothing more than a number to many Filipinos.
The responsibility of addressing the Philippine socio-economic disparity does not fall on the government alone. In my thirty-two years as a professional, life has taught me this lesson: “Kayang-kaya, kung sama sama” (Together, we are stronger). I have seen the great feats that can be achieved by working together. Only strong partnerships can bridge the gaps of progress.
One such product of an innovative and prolific public-private partnership is the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project. After eleven years, it remains a pioneering gas project of massive industrial and technological scale that gave birth to the country’s natural gas industry.
Malampaya is now in its next stages of development—the Malampaya Phase 2 (MP2) which involves the drilling of two additional gas wells that, together with Malampaya Phase 3’s (MP3) second gas platform, will sustain the level of gas production from the gas field in northwest Palawan. The cleaner-burning natural gas from Malampaya recovered using innovative deepwater technology fuels three power plants with a total capacity of 2, 700 megawatts, which accounts for 40 to 45 percent of Luzon’s generation capacity.
Back at the time of its construction in 1995, Malampaya’s state-of-the-art deepwater technology was largely unknown in the Philippines. This necessitated the assignment of the Project’s management to expatriate experts, until 2009, when the first Filipino was given the top position of Asset Manager. That person was me. Far more than a personal feat, a Filipino at the helm of Malampaya means that a project of this scale and impact can be entrusted to Filipinos.
And why not? Our countrymen and women have proven to all and sundry their resilience in the face of financial crisis that make waves of economic upheaval around the world. While other countries suffer from the setbacks of an ever-changing environment, Filipinos are able to cope and adapt, and even emerge with a stellar 7% economic growth.
Filipinos only need to be empowered and equipped with tools and knowledge they need to enable them to have access to the country’s wealth. The Malampaya consortium, led by the Department of Energy, and comprising of Shell Philippines Exploration, B.V. (SPEX), the Project’s operator, Chevron Malampaya LLC and Philippine National Oil Company – Exploration Corporation, implements capacity-building trainings, environmental conservation programs and other social investment programs through the Malampaya Foundation, Inc. (MFI) to help people uplift their lives and make healthier and safer communities.
Our Bridging Employment through Skills Training (BEST) program gives unemployed individuals and out-of-school youths from Palawan, Oriental Mindoro, Batangas and Subic the opportunity to learn vocational skills such as welding, scaffolding and rigging. Close to 1,600 of our BEST scholars have already graduated and are now employed locally and abroad; and some are working at the Keppel Subic Shipyard —the site of the fabrication of the Malampaya Phase 3 gas platform.
We work with communities and groups to help conserve the environment and increase livelihood opportunities. The Livelihood Alternatives and Mariculture-Based Assistance (LAMBAT) transforms the lives of fisher folk families by providing trainings on environment-friendly methods of mariculture and other feasible supplemental livelihood for coastal communities.
Other programs include the Shoreline Communities Onwards to Resiliency (SHORE), which capacitates coastline communities to become more self-sufficient on emergency response and preparedness in times of calamities; marine biodiversity conservation efforts in the Verde Island Passage; and the Barangay Aquatic Habitat and Underwater Regeneration Assistance (BAHURA) program’s implementations of coastal resource management plans in North Palawan.
We also made sure we protected the fragile coral reefs and avoided fishing grounds and ancestral domains when we constructed the 504-kilometre pipeline that transports natural gas from Palawan to Batangas where it is harnessed to become electricity.
At the bigger picture, the Gas Project generates billions of dollars in government revenue, continuously supplies cleaner energy, reduces oil imports and enables the transfer of technology and expertise to Filipinos that will ultimately enhance our country’s self-sufficiency.
Malampaya and its social investment programs bear our hopes and dreams for the Filipino people and our country. The MP3 gas platform being built at the Keppel shipyard in Subic is the first of its kind to be built on Philippine soil. I see the BEST scholars entrusted with this task—the young, once unemployed men and women who are now making history—and the significance of this moment is not lost in me. For the Philippines, now might be the turning point, and inclusive growth will not just be another buzzword.
In hindsight, the story of Malampaya proves that partnerships, innovations and being a good corporate citizen with compassion and vision are some of the keys to inclusive growth. Beyond presence there is impact, and the measure of our impact will be the positive legacy it leaves. More companies and corporations should strive for inclusive growth to become the best versions of themselves, and in doing so, we can help all Filipinos and the country do the same.