MANILA, May 24, 2008 (STAR) By Donnabelle Gatdula - Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes denied yesterday that he received a presidential scolding and told reporters that it was all just brainstorming.

“I was not scolded! It was only part of intellectual discussions,” Reyes said of the informal briefing Tuesday with President Arroyo on the power supply situation in the Visayas.

Reyes continued to defend himself from criticisms coming from the President herself who constantly interrupted his presentation on the power situation in the region.

To prove his point, Reyes said Mrs. Arroyo’s interrupting him during his presentation was only part of the lively exchange of what he called “intellectual discussions.”

He clarified the President’s efforts to interrupt him only showed the liberal exchange of opinions between those who attended the informal briefing held in Panglao, Bohol.

Reyes was appointed as energy secretary on July 31 last year, replacing Raphael Lotilla who resigned “to regain his intellectual appetite.”

Reyes was giving an update before the gathering of the National Economic and Development Authority Cabinet group.

During the meeting, Reyes remained focused on his presentation and raised the importance of giving more power to the Visayas area.

Reyes stressed the need to “avert a power supply shortage in Cebu, Negros and Panay (CNP) islands.”

The argument apparently ensued when Mrs. Arroyo pointed out that only Panay has a power shortage.

The study made by the National Transmission Corp. (Transco) showed a deficit of 30.6 megawatt (MW) in Panay.

Residents of Negros Oriental also reported that brownouts have become a regular occurrence in the island.

Despite the “scolding incident,” Reyes reiterated his call for more vigorous private sector involvement in power generation in Western Visayas.

He said the region has been experiencing intermittent power outages in the past few months.

He said there are efforts to improve the power supply in the Visayas.

Reyes said the Energy department, along with Philippine National Oil Co.-Energy Development Corp. (PNOC-EDC), is already exploring the possibility of developing geothermal resources in the buffer zone of Mt. Kanlaon Park.

The Northern Negros Geothermal Production Field (NNGPF) has been operating under capacity since calcite minerals have clogged the geothermal wells, thus reducing its capacity to 4 to 7 MW.

Reyes stressed before the meeting that the NNGPF project could be part of the measures that would help address the power situation in the Visayas.

With the additional capacity coming from the NNGPF, Reyes explained the power supply in the region will significantly improve through an increase in the generation capacity of the 49 MW geothermal plant.

“We are currently in consultation with the private sector and local government units to explore measures to address the power issue in the region. It is imperative that we identify concrete plans soon in order to avert a power shortage in the future,” he said.

Reyes said securing the power supply would even entice more foreign investment in the development of renewable energy in the region.

Reyes said this “breakneck pace in government service” might even qualify for some sort of citation in the Guinness Book of Records, as ensuring adequate supply of electricity was one of his major priorities.

After his retirement as Armed Forces chief, Reyes held several positions in the Cabinet that included stints at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of National Defense.

In a recent forum, Reyes said that nobody can claim to be more of an environmentalist than he is.

He mentioned his previous stint as DENR Secretary fit his advocacy for nature and environment protection.

“When I quit government service, I will most likely join an NGO whose pursuit is conservation of the environment,” he said.

PGMA sends truckloads of HS textbooks for Northern Luzon

GUIGUINTO, Bulacan -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sent off today delivery trucks containing some 65,000 textbooks for the requirements of public high school students in Northern Luzon this coming school year.

The textbooks shall reach the beneficiary public schools in time for the school opening this June in Regions I, II, III, and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) as the President herself pasted "DO NOT DELAY" stickers on the first ten delivery vans that she sent off this afternoon at the RIS Industrial Park in Barangay Tabe here.

Among those who welcomed the President for the send-off ceremony were Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Jesli Lapus, Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza, Vice Governor Wilhelmino Alvarado, Bulacan 2nd District Rep. Pedro Pancho, Guiguinto Mayor Isagani Pascual, and DepEd Regional Director Mario Ramirez.

The President inspected the loading of the textbooks at the RIS Industrial Park and was briefed by Simon Crisostomo, president of Alkem, the company that has been delivering DepEd textbooks since 1997.

Crisostomo said the 64,354 textbooks are just part of the total 1,911,396 textbooks in HEKASI, Araling Panlipunan and English I to IV that will be delivered to Northern Luzon, the National Capital Region (NCR) and parts of Region IV.

Crisostomo said Alkem-printed textbooks are at least 500 percent cheaper than textbooks bought from bookstores.

"An example is our HEKASI textbook which costs only P26 including delivery, but can easily fetch P300 when you buy it from a bookstore," Crisostomo said.

Crisostomo added that his printing company is about to complete the distribution of some nine million textbooks for public high schools in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Their textbook deliveries helped DepEd achieve the 1:1 student-textbook ratio which stood at only 1:4 when they started delivering the high school textbooks in 1997, according to Crisostomo.

Some three months ago, the DepEd was praised by the World Bank (WB) and AusAid during the latter’s February 2008 Review Mission for completing the bidding and evaluation process in less than two weeks for a printing package worth US$25 million, and for getting the record lowest textbook prices ever.

The DepEd system is now considered a “best practice” by the WB and is now being replicated in other South East Asian countries.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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