BOI lists viable investments in Catanduanes
Bicol’s island province of Catanduanes has plenty of viable projects that can attract investors under the government’s Investment Priorities Plan, according to the Board of Investments (BOI).
These projects include mineral resources development focused on the large deposits of limestone in the province that could be used to produce cement; renewable energy and coal-bed methane power plants; agri-fisheries; ship building; and tourism, Raul Angeles, the executive director of the BOI’s Investments Servicing Group, said in a statement.
In its coal-bed methane power plant investment potentials, Angeles said the province sits on a vast high-grade coal field that can be used to produce 50 megawatts (MW) of electricity, without damaging the environment, through the use of clean-coal technology.
A coal-fired thermal power plant will be able to produce 100 MW, enough to bring down the cost of electricity on the island to at least P7.50 per kilowatt-hour, compared to the existing P11, he said.
In March last year, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a new Catanduanes coal mining contract to the Australian-owned Altura Mining Limited (ASX:AJM) through its local subsidiary, Altura Mining Philippines Inc. (AMPI) under the Philippine Energy Contracting Round 4 (PECR4).
In the wake of the awarding of this new mining contract, the provincial government, joined by the local hierarchy of the Catholic Church, has renewed its opposition to mining which, according to a recent study, would compromise the 60,000 hectares of forests on the island, the largest green patch in Bicol.
The study revealed that the five-year project timeline on the 7,000 hectares of AMPI in extracting 1.2 million tons of coal would provide a share to the province projected at around P76 million with at least 500 local mining laborers to be hired.
However, it said, the about 1,400-hectare portion of the mining site devoted to abaca and could churn out at least P26 million per year worth of abaca products– benefitting some 9,000 farmers, would be lost to the mining.
This means that in five years, an amount of P132 million in abaca production will be lost by the province in exchange for the P76-million share from the mining operations.
Catanduanes is an abaca production leader with its over 20,000 MT of fiber yield yearly, representing about 35 percent of the country’s total output.
In renewable energy, Angeles noted that for the island province to attract investments, it has to offer adequate and affordable power.
While Sunwest Water and Electricity Co. is now operating two hydroelectric power plants, he underscored that hydro power cannot serve as the base load of the island grid. In agri-fisheries, according to Angeles, the province has a wide deep-sea fishing prospect by taking advantage of the so-called “Tuna Highway” in the Pacific Ocean that passes close to the island.
Meanwhile, in the area of ship-building that Joseph Cua, the provincial governor, is eyeing to revive in Panganiban town, the province could service small boats from Japan and other countries where the labor cost is high.
Panganiban is a fifth class municipality situated on the northern part of Catanduanes with its eastern part facing the Pacific Ocean.
In tourism, Angeles said, the island’s huge potential as a tourist destination is a good investment attraction although a lot of improvement still needs to be done on its transport facilities, accommodations and historical sites.
A recent report published by the island-based Catanduanes Tribune, a local weekly, quoted Angeles, a native of the province, as saying that when maximized, these investment potentials can make Catanduanes a “Little Taiwan” out of the many manufacturing activities that may take place in its localities.
Angeles met with local officials and businessmen during the recent investment promotion seminar sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at the Capitol in Virac, the provincial capital, the Tribune said.
The BOI is promoting its proposed General Policies and Specific Guidelines to govern the 2013 Investment Priorities Plan (IPP), it noted.
Angeles, however, clarified that as far as the BOI is concerned, it will not promote commercial mining in Catanduanes if the local government units do not want it.
“We will not invite investors if they will only be hounded by protests,” the Tribune quoted him as saying in the seminar.
The DTI, under which the BOI operates, has to review the mining laws as what the government is getting from the mining industry is too small,” he pointed out to the Tribune, adding that the two percent excise tax on extracted minerals has to be divided among the national, provincial, municipal and barangay governments.
“There should be more benefits for the people,” the BOI director stated, as long as the mining companies comply with mitigating requirements under existing environmental and mining laws, rules and regulations. PNA