MANILA –The Philippines must continuously invest in improving the country’s energy capacity to attain energy security that will allow the country to sustain its rapid growth and make it more inclusive, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“As we continue to strengthen and improve the nation’s institutions, develop the country’s infrastructure, promote technological innovation, and pursue regulatory and structural reforms, we also have to carry out policies and programs that will improve the competitiveness and productivity of our industries. This cannot be attained without an efficient, secure and sustainable energy sector,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan in his presentation at the 2016 Energy Policy and Development Program (EPDP) Conference that was held on 12-13 January at the New World Hotel, Makati City.

He underscored that energy remains a crucial element in economic growth and development, stating the potential of the Philippines of reaching high income status by 2040 provided the economy grows consistently by 7.0 percent annually.

“While there have been improvements in infrastructure, we still lag behind our neighbors. In particular, investments in energy capacity need to be sustained, where the desired outcome is energy security,” said Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General.

“This means ensuring the availability, quality, and affordability of electricity,” he added.

Balisacan cited the World Economic Forum report, which showed that the Philippines scored only 4.2 out of seven in terms of sufficiency and reliability of power supply. Also, almost 20 percent of households in the Philippines do not have electricity, and those who do—households, commercial establishments and industries—have to pay a high price for electricity, which is almost twice the average price in Southeast Asia.

“This means that we are losing out in competitiveness, thereby limiting our export orientation. Additionally, our energy and electricity consumption per capita is the lowest among eight countries. If we equate convenience as having access to more automated gadgets, then this means that we are the most deprived in terms of convenience,” the Cabinet official said.

The EPDP currently assists the Philippine government in research, capacity-building, and in developing policies and strategies that will make cost-effective use of resources, promote sustainable energy development, and make electricity accessible and affordable to Filipinos. It was launched by the UPEcon Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development in 2014. Balisacan currently chairs the EPDP Steering Committee.

The two-day EPDP Conference 2016 convened policymakers, practitioners, experts and academics to discuss policy and research issues in energy such as forecasting energy demand, optimal fuel mix, market testing of power supply agreements, and power plant approvals.