Senator Win Gatchalian has revived calls for the creation of a world-class think tank to bridge research and policy gaps in the Philippine energy sector in hopes of fostering greater energy security, sustainability, and affordability in the country.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, made the call in the aftermath of the attack on oil fields in Saudi Arabia, which has threatened to drive fuel prices up in the country.
In pushing for the immediate passage of Senate Bill No. 172 or An Act Creating the Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute (PERPI), which he filed, Gatchalian pointed out that having a local energy research and policy center may help insulate the country from supply shocks as a result of global geopolitical events by conducting studies on short term and long term policies on energy security.
“The vision for this bill is really to enable the government and the academe to level up the knowledge base and the research capabilities of the energy sector,” he said. “The creation of PERPI is crucial for the country since we are dependent on a lot of importation when it comes to energy. Over the weekend, the attack on Saudi oil fields leaves us vulnerable to a lot of supply shock.”
“Through PERPI, the government may undertake studies on short- and long-term policies on protecting the country from supply shocks; on the optimal minimum inventory/stockpile to cushion the impact of supply shocks; and the estimated effect on pump price because of certain supply shocks,” the lawmaker said.
In a nutshell, SBN 172 mandates the establishment of the PERPI at the University of the Philippines. It will be tasked to conduct multidisciplinary energy research, incubate and develop cutting edge technologies, and serve as the sparring partner for the government during the energy policy-making process.
Drawing inspiration from similar energy think tanks hosted by top American universities, Gatchalian believes that it is now high time for the country to have its own energy research and policy center.
“The energy sector is naturally characterized by rapidly changing technologies, which necessitates continuous study and research. The results of these inquiries are crucial in ensuring that energy policies are responsive to the evolving landscape of the energy sector and its effect on consumers,” he said.
Gatchalian also pointed out that “there is a scarcity of energy research and policy programs in the country” and that most of the more recent energy programs “have been time bound due to financial limitations of the private or foreign grantor or donor.”
There is no government entity currently providing all the services envisioned to be provided by PERPI. PERPI’s research and policy direction and priorities shall be determined by an Advisory Council and implemented by the Executive Director.
As an attached agency of the country’s national university, the UP President will be given the authority to appoint the Executive Director based on the recommendation of the Advisory Council.
The bill appropriates P200 million for the initial funding of the think tank. An Endowment Fund will also be established to further power the institute’s research.
“This bills seeks to bridge research and policy gap in the energy sector by institutionalizing an independent and public sector funded Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute. It recognizes the importance of rigorous multidisciplinary research in making sound energy policies and legislation,” Gatchalian said.