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Of EVs and evolving energy

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Commentary

By Kap Maceda Aguila

“THE prospect is extremely bright for EVs [electric vehicles] in the Philippines in 2019,” confidently declared Rommel T Juan, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP), in an interview with BusinessWorld.

There is reason for Mr. Juan’s bullishness on EVs which, though still taking a backseat to conventional internal combustion engine-powered transportation, are rapidly growing in adoption and have long ago crossed the divide from fiction to reality. EVAP reports that government is facing the emerging trend by bracing for the “eventual mass introduction in the Philippine market,” quoting DOTr Undersecretary Mark Richmund M. de Leon, officer-in-charge for Road Transport and Infrastructure, at a recent workshop to review the Low-Carbon Urban Transport System funded in part by the United Nations Development Programme.

Plotting the direction and progress of EVs in the country, Mr. de Leon said at the workshop; “Some 54 experts covering nine sectors are with us as we review the project to ensure… activities are still aligned with the priorities of the government and the private sector. The government, manufacturers and assemblers of low-carbon vehicles, alternative fuel providers, battery solution providers, financial institutions, fleet and transport operators, transport-related NGOs and even the academe are well represented here, thus we are assured that the project is in good and capable hands.”

One could consider the program a hard reset for the state’s decision makers; a rethinking “to create an enabling environment for the commercialization of low-carbon urban transport system in the Philippines. This is through the propagation of environmentally-sustainable transport such as electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, and vehicles powered by alternative fuel sources like LPG, CNG, and solar.”

Mr. Juan added that even the DTI, in cooperation with the local EV industry, is getting into the act by drawing a “new roadmap.” Even framed within the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion scheme, EVs are clearly being given a leg up through excise tax relief –ostensibly clearing the way for greater adoption and easier acquisition.




Electric (and alternatively fueled vehicles) are seemingly the new sexy in this new age of mobility. But, to digress, perhaps this notion does not give it enough importance and immediacy. The undeniable effects of climate change has asked society to reexamine its carbon footprint and, within it, our boundless need for mobility.

Even petroleum firms have begun to face the inevitability of a so-called “energy transition,” which will eventually wean us from finite and polluting fossil fuels. Shell Companies in the Philippines chairman Cesar G. Romero, in a position paper released last year, pointed to the Philippines being part of the Paris Agreement “which commits [signatories] to limit the global rise in temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to strive for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

He declared that “Shell supports this commitment to reduce global warming by reducing the Net Carbon Footprint of our energy products by around half by the middle of the century. This means reducing emissions from our own operations, and changing the mix of products we sell to our customers… In the Philippines, we support [the] government’s pledge to achieve a 70% cut in carbon emissions by 2030 to be taken from the energy, transport, waste, forestry, and industry sectors.”

More significantly, Shell is looking at itself in a new light. “We’re no longer an oil company, but an energy company,” averred Mr. Romero in an interview with this writer for another publication.

In the same interview, the executive stressed that the mission now is to provide affordable, cleaner energy to those who do not have it. “At the moment, there are a billion people in the world with no access to electricity… An additional three billion use highly polluting solid fuel such as wood, charcoal, peat and coal.” Tellingly, Mr. Romero used the term “cleaner.”

“Energy is needed for human progress,” he said simply. “Oil is one of the key fuels for energy. The crucial aspect is ensuring responsible production and responsible consumption.

“Our aspiration over the long term is to be able to provide the world with the energy it needs in whatever shape or form. Of course, in the spirit of cleaner and lighter, we have focused our efforts on oil, gas, and renewables.”

Just as newfangled energy companies are bracing for an ultimately carbon-free tomorrow, greater EV adoption has already appeared on the horizon and is getting closer to fruition. The trajectory has somewhat changed with a cognizant government which is starting to roll the red carpet out to promote not only electrics but alternative-fuel transportation.

When infrastructure is firmed up, and with fiscal relief aplenty, the country’s mobility evolution and green aspirations can further increase velocity.