NAGA, CEBU, May 2, 2005
 (STAR) By Aurea Calica — South Korea, one of the biggest source of foreign capital in the Philippine energy sector, has committed to further boost its investment presence in the country, Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Yu Myung Hwan said.

The Korean diplomat accompanied President Arroyo during a site inspection last Saturday of the $270-million coal-fired power plant to be put up here by Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco).

Yu said the project, which is expected to provide low cost electricity and thousands of jobs to Filipinos, is proof that his government is keeping its promise to invest in the Philippines.

"I can only say the Korean government’s strong commitment to invest in Philippines will continue as we promised in 2003, at that time my President committed investment in energy sector in Philippines," he said.

At the same time, he allayed fears of certain groups that the coal-powered generator would cause damage to the environment.

"If they have any reservations, please come to Korea and see, all of our coal-powered generators, about 1,500, are in good operation," he pointed out.

"In Korea, we have the same existing type of coal-powered generator. Korea is densely populated and nobody raised any complaints about it. Environment is one of the most important concerns, so I can assure you that they (plants) will be kept clean and clear," he added.

President Arroyo welcomed the Korean investments, saying these would avoid any lack of supply in energy especially in the Visayas by 2008.

"I am very grateful to the Korean government and business community because of their strong commitment to invest in the Philippines. We have the Korean ambassador and we have the executives of Korean Electric Power Co. here," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo disclosed that Kepco has also started putting up a power plant in Batangas, which would also be expanded by the Korean investors.

"We need this not only because we want to make the cost of power competitive and it is a demand-supply thing but also because (one of ) the 10 points of my legacy agenda is to provide power for every barangay.

And, of course, we need power plants to be able to do that," she said.

Kepco president and chief executive officer Lee Gil Gu said the power plant would be truly beneficial to the Philippines.

"Our mission as an independent power producer in the Philippines is to produce low electricity with good quality. Our plant will be producing electricity by 2008 and will be most competitive compared to other visitor power plants," the Kepco official said.

"And also during the period starting the end of the year, we will hire local employees – around 180,000 workers as well as (provide) scholarships, medical services and we will take care of your heritage. And also we will promote local tourism here in Cebu," he added.

The Kepco project is only one of two foreign investments the President visited here in Cebu province, with an aggregate amount of $405 million.

The President earlier visited the Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. (ACMDC) mine site in Toledo City, and later was briefed on the 200-megawatt Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion (CFBC) power plant, another Kepco project, also in Naga, Cebu.

In a media briefing, the President disclosed that ACMDC’s investments in the country has reached $135 million, while Falcon-Kepco has invested $270 million in its power plant project.

The Chief Executive said that the CFBC project, together with the $100-million Mirant power plant project in Toledo, are "intended to make sure that what we saw in 2001 as a looming demand-supply gap, especially in the Visayas, will not happen."

Expressing her gratitude to the Korean government for its strong commitment to invest in the Philippines, the President also said that Kepco is expanding the capacity of its Batangas power plant by an additional 600 megawatts.

The President said she hoped that the groundbreaking of Kepco’s two power projects would be the highlight of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun’s visit to the country in December.

"This is a very important welcome investment from the Korean business community. When the President of Korea comes in December, I hope that among the highlights of his visit will be the groundbreaking of these two very important power plants," she said.

The CFBC power plant will use locally-produced coal to promote indigenous energy. It is projected to be fully operational by 2008.

The President stressed that the construction of more power plants in the country would make power cost more competitive.

She added that among her 10-point legacy agenda is to provide power to every barangay in the country.

Kepco is the largest Korean investor in the Philippines. It operates the $700-million Ilijan natural gas power plant in Batangas and the 650-megawatt Malaysia thermal power plant in Pililia, Rizal.

Falcon and Kepco are independent power producers supplying electricity to the state-owned National Power Corp. (Napocor).

On the other hand, the ACMDC copper mine site in Toledo City intends to resume operation before the year ends.

The reopening of the mine site will contribute to new direct and indirect jobs that would benefit Toledo and nearby communities.

A recent study has indicated that with an estimated active life of 20 or more years, the Toledo copper mines would generate export earnings of $110 million annually.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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