SuperTyphoon Yolanda (International name Haiyan), one of the strongest storms ever recorded, left a “deep imprint on everyone” at the First Philippine Holdings Corporation (FPH), the parent company of Energy Development Corporation (EDC).

This was admitted by FPH Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Federico R. Lopez said during his keynote speech last June 17 at the SharePhil Summit 2016 in Makati City.

The typhoon brought about “considerable corporate and personal damage” on the company’s geothermal plants in Leyte, where Yolanda made landfall, he said.

As a result of the devastation, the Lopez-led company was prompted to walk its talk — it rejected the use of coal, one of the cheapest but dirtiest fuels, to generate power.

“We made public our group’s stance that we would no longer consider building, developing, or investing in coal-fired power plants despite the fact that every other business group and bank in the country is doing so. We’re making it our mission to help the country navigate the challenging transition toward a cleaner decarbonized future,” Mr. Lopez said.

Mr. Lopez also warned shareholders during the summit that they can no longer overlook the costs of such disasters and that Filipinos are not ready to face calamities brought by climate change.

“The later the carbon emissions to be reduced, it will be more difficult, drastic, and impossible those reductions be. Much of the warming already occurring will trigger widespread tipping points and feedback loops on ecosystems that cannot be reversed and will exacerbate climate change even more,” Mr. Lopez said.

Coal reconsidered but later rejected

These sentiments were the diametric opposite of what has been publicly expressed by Mr. Lopez.

During the sidelines of the stockholders’ meeting last May 23, the diversified conglomerate had considered to invest and build coal-power plants but explained that the idea was already scrapped.

“In fact at some point we were studying it, we were going to invest in it. We even had plans that we announced. We’ve scrapped all of that already,” Mr. Lopez said.

Despite the drive towards renewable energy, coal still remains the cheapest and most dependable source of energy in the country. During his first media briefing held on July 4, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said that the Philippines will retain coal as a core part of its electricity generation mix.

“Coal is the more dependable, the more reliable source for base load […] As a developing country we cannot afford not to have coal,” Mr. Cusi said.

Being one of Asia’s fastest growing economies with a current gross domestic product growth projection of 6%, the country aims to double its capacity to generate power by 2030 to avoid a power shortage that took place in the 1990s.

But these developments haven’t made a dent in the company’s commitment for a greener future.

“Social Justice also emerges in the way we approach our geothermal business. In the broadest sense, social justice is that of doing right for society. It has always been at the core of our Group’s DNA,” he added.

From January to March this year, Lopez Holdings earned P1.35 billion, 24% higher than the P1.09 billion reported during the same period in 2015.

FPH was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission with the purpose of purchasing and acquiring shares in the power generation, real estate development, roads and tollways operations, manufacturing and construction, financing and other service industries. The company’s other subsidiaries and affiliates include First Gen Corporation; First Philippine Industrial Corporation; and Rockwell Land Corporation. FPH also has a 3.95% interest in Manila Electric Company. — Mac Norhen E. Bornales

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