A BILL filed in the House of Representatives proposes to classify natural gas projects as strategic, entitling them to expedited permit processes.

House Bill 4097 seeks to grant the sector’s projects the status of “Energy Projects of National Significance” (EPNS). It was filed by Davao Rep. Paolo Z. Duterte, Benguet Rep. Eric G. Yap, and ACT-CIS Party-list Representatives Edvic G. Yap and Jeffrey P. Soriano.

“Despite the establishment of the Philippine Energy Plan… threats of blackouts remain as drilling activities in pursuit of exploring natural gas were halted,” the legislators said in the bill’s explanatory note.

EPNS status is being proposed for liquefied natural gas terminals and gas distribution systems as the Philippines transitions to an importer of natural gas with the depletion of its largest domestic gas source, the Malampaya field.

The bill also lays out an incentive scheme for investors, including income tax holidays, enhanced deductions, and an exemption from value-added tax.

The bill also tasks the Department of Energy with preparing a Natural Gas Industry Plan, and the Energy Regulatory Commission with regulating rates and terms and conditions for gas services. 

The Departments of Natural Resources, Health and Trade and Industry have been roped in to help draft safety standards for the industry.

The Malampaya Deepwater gas-to-power project was the first gas platform designed and constructed in the Philippines. It provides up to 20% of the Philippines’ energy needs via a gas pipeline between northern Palawan and Batangas, site of most of the country’s gas-fired power plants. 

“Congress needs to act fast in passing HB 4097… in order to anticipate the elevated demand for electricity resulting from the country’s rapid post-pandemic growth,” Mr. Duterte said, noting that Malampaya is expected to be commercially depleted in the next few years. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo