SOME TYPES of renewable energy like geothermal are open to full foreign ownership, while other clean power sources are also being studied for similar liberalization, according to the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB).

In July, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said he is pursuing a policy that will grant foreign companies a full access to renewable entities in the country to bolster its development for energy security.

Right now, geothermal, biomass, and large hydropower plants can be considered for full foreign ownership as certain components are not necessarily covered by the 60-40 constitutional rule governing the use of indigenous resources, according to NREB Chairperson Monalisa C. Dimalanta.

“There are already boundaries set by Supreme Court rulings,” she said in a webinar hosted by the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ms. Dimalanta said geothermal is classified as a mineral resource under the Renewable Energy Act which can be covered by a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement. “So, it can be 100% foreign, except that it must be signed by the President,” she added.

The power generation component of impoundment hydropower facilities “can be undertaken by foreign participation,” as long as the water rights are held by Filipinos,” she added.

Biomass plants are also free from constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership, she said.

The constitution allows foreign entities to own only up to 40% of the capital stock of a public utility.

A House measure was passed in March amending the Public Service Act. It seeks to limit the classification of a public utility to electricity distribution, power transmission, and water pipeline distribution or sewage pipeline system.

The NREB, which advises the Department of Energy, is still evaluating the potential for “greater” foreign ownership of wind, solar, and run-of-river hydropower generators.

Mr. Cusi has said that he supports more foreign ownership because “‘yung investment naman nila, ‘di naman nila madadala ‘yan (They cannot abandon the country and take their investments with them).”

Lahat naman halos ng technologies ng renewable ay foreign-sourced (The technologies used in renewable facilities are mostly foreign-sourced),” he said.

The Bayan Muna Party-list has said it is prepared to challenge such a policy. “The degree by which the officials of the Duterte administration are selling our country to foreign interests is truly appalling and gravely condemnable,” Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, its representative, said.

In 2019, renewable energy accounted for 21% of all power generated, according to the NREB. The board wants the share of clean power in the generation mix to return to around 40% over the next two decades. — Adam J. Ang