By Denise A. Valdez

REP. MICHAEL L. ROMERO of 1-Pacman Party-list is seeking to venture into the power generation business, starting with a bid to take over the 650-megawatt Malaya thermal power plant in Pililia, Rizal.

The country’s richest lawmaker, whose net worth reached P7.858 billion in 2018, said in a recent chance interview he wants to “surprise” the power sector with his plans to become a bigger player in the energy industry.

“’Yung power generation, slowly pumapasok na kami (We’re slowly entering the power generation sector). We’re finalizing a few (things), and it will be finished siguro by the end of the year, our acquisition of different power [plants]. We will also bid in the Malaya power plant,” he told reporters on Oct. 9.

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) started the second round of bidding for the Malaya power plant on Oct. 7 after last month’s auction failed with only one participant. A pre-bid conference is set on Thursday, Oct. 24.

“We have already commenced the second round of bidding… The bid submission date for this second round of bidding is November 22,” PSALM President and Chief Executive Irene B. Garcia told BusinessWorld in a text message Friday.

Asked about Mr. Romero’s plan to participate in the bidding, however, Ms. Garcia said she hasn’t been in communication with the businessman. But she named Panasia Energy Holdings, Inc.; Phinma Energy Corp. and Hill Trench Power, Inc. as among those that have indicated interest to bid.

Aside from plans involving Malaya, Mr. Romero said he wants to put up three power plants in Mindanao and one in Luzon. Those that will be in Mindanao are for renewable and coal energy, while the one in Luzon will be for hydropower.

So far, Mr. Romero’s engagement in the energy sector is through his company Crown Investment Holdings, Inc., which manages Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco), the power distributor of Zamboanga City.

He said through Zamcelco, his group is now distributing 130 megawatts everyday. But in terms of power generation, he expects to consolidate 300-350 megawatts by next year through the various power plants he’s planning to put up.

Mr. Romero has several businesses in various sectors in his portfolio, such as Philippines AirAsia, Inc., where his family owns a 60% stake through F&S Holdings, Inc. He is also with GlobalPort900, Inc.; Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. and Sultan 900 Capital, Inc., among others.

“Our power business is the business that I’m very very excited about,” Mr. Romero said. “There’s a big, big surprise next year. It will be the first of its kind.”