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Philippines: Unlocking the potential for green jobs

Philippines: Unlocking the potential for green jobs
Located in the North of the Philippines, Bangui in Ilocos Norte, the NorthWind Bangui Bay Project is the first wind farm in the Philippines. It is considered to be the largest in Southeast Asia.

By Catherine Dominguez

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In our world today, renewable energy is not just a means of complying with environmental standards; it is also the key to unlock economic growth.

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A massive up take of renewables addresses climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while also increasing energy security and generating more jobs – “green” jobs.

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According to the Worldwatch Institute, “renewables tends to be a more labor-intensive energy source than the still-dominant fossil fuels, which rely heavily on expensive pieces of pro¬duction equipment.”

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Hence, a transition toward renewable energy also brings job gains.

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In the case of the Philippines, one of Asia’s fastest growing economies at the moment, Greenpeace believes that the country can further stimulate its prosperity by reaping the benefits from renewables, in which “green can bring gold.”

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“Once we invest in renewable energy, it would help the economy...by bringing new jobs and harnessing what we have in the country,” Anna Abad, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate Campaigner, told EcoSeed.

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At present, she noted that renewable energy investments in the Philippines remain slim.

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Green jobs across the world

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In their recently published study assessing green jobs potential in the Philippines, Greenpeace noted that many countries across the world are already expanding their renewable energy sector, and have generated many jobs that way.

In Europe, a Deutsche Bank report found that nearly 650,000 green jobs have been created, with Germany accounting for over half of the regions total.

In the United States, the National Resources Defense Council estimated 75,000 Americans are employed in its wind industry, while the Solar Foundation estimated that 100,237 people are working for the solar industry as of 2011.

China, has an estimated one million green jobs with 600,000 employees in the solar industry alone. Other Asian countries, such as India, Bangladesh, and Thailand, are seeing rapid renewable energy development and a corresponding rise in green jobs.

Looking at what other nations have been doing, the Greenpeace report believes that the Philippines can walk the same pathway.

“Globally, there are already so much green jobs that are existing – 2 to 3.5 million green jobs. It's not a small number and it's rapidly increasing. In the Philippines, we are also hoping to become part of that global trend, where we increase the number of green jobs, increase reinvestment for the country,” said Ms. Abad.

The Philippines’ potential to generate green jobs

According to her, a 10-megawatt solar power plant in the country can employ 1,000 people for six months during its construction, while 100 permanent full time positions will be created for its operation and maintenance.

A 33-MW wind farm can also generate about a thousand jobs during construction and 21 direct jobs during its operation.

As for an 8-MW hydropower plant, about 1,000 Filipinos will be employed over a period of three years and once the facility gets done, 30 Filipinos will have permanent positions.

Greenpeace said there are currently seven proposed biomass projects in the country, which would mean 78,000 construction jobs and 3,400 to 4,000 jobs once the projects are operational. Additionally, 7,000 people will be tapped in the supply chain including the farmers producing the agricultural wastes that will be used at the plants.

Currently, geothermal power is the most mature renewable energy sector in the Philippines, which comes in second behind the United States in the global rankings. The geothermal industry is also a pretty big employer.

To put things in perspective, one geothermal company in the country has hired about 2,582 employees for a 1,189-MW plant.

Geothermal power was developed between the late 60s and early 70s when oil was peaking very high, said Ms. Abad. It was a big leap for the government to invest in geothermal energy back then, but it had a big pay off. Geothermal power now saves the country over $7 billion from coal imports and significantly brings down the cost of electricity.

“Imagine what it can do to our electricity prices when all of the renewable energy investments come in and [they] become mature technologies,” she stressed.

The missing link

Greenpeace stressed in their report that renewable energy can bring jobs, as well as cost savings and earnings to the Philippines.

In order to harvest these advantages, Ms. Abad pointed out that the missing link is not policies but the government’s commitment which is lacking action and implementation of these policies.

When the renewable energy law was passed almost five years ago, in December 2008, she said it was hailed as the most comprehensive and most forward-looking law for renewable energy, that it was even praised and looked up to by neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.

Under this law, the Philippines seeks to raise its renewable energy consumption by three times to 15,000 MW.

“Unfortunately, what is perfect on paper is not the same as it is in practice,” noted Ms. Abad.

Since its passage, it has not really taken off due to many delays and the fact that the government still pushing for coal with the Department of Energy looking to build 23 coal-fired power plants across the country.

When these coal-fired power plants are approved and goes into the pipeline, it is feared that they will edge out any potential renewable energy investments.

Ms. Abad urged that the government should revoke approval from these coal plant construction plans, as well as phase out existing coal facilities and replace them more sustainable projects like building solar and wind facilities.

Meanwhile, Ms. Abad said Filipinos, especially the youth, are slowly becoming aware of green jobs and that they want to be employed in a green job in which they could enjoy a way better and healthier working environment than workers in coal plants. However, there are no available opportunities and the government has to provide these opportunities for the people.

“It's really the commitment and they (the government) have to walk the walk, and not just say that we have good policies. They really have to commit to these...and must make sure that they get enforced and implemented,” concluded Ms. Abad.



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