Meralco weighs foray into gas business

MR. PANGILINAN says Atimonan power plant project is a candidate for conversion into a gas facility. — BW FILE PHOTO

MANILA ELECTRIC Co. (Meralco) should look at participating in the gas business, its chairman said, as a separate company that he leads is set to develop an offshore area for its resources.

“We hope that (Service Contract) 72 could get developed as an oil field and once we start developing, we have to connect to Malampaya because we need the facilities to process the raw gas, then pipe it to Batangas,” Meralco Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said in a press briefing on Monday.

Mr. Pangilinan, who also chairs PXP Energy Corp., was referring to an area in Recto Bank that was previously banned for exploration but was opened last year by the Energy department. The Malampaya gas-to-power project is the country’s sole source of natural gas.

PXP Energy has operating interests in the West Philippine Sea through SC 72 and SC 75, both offshore blocks northwest of Palawan.

“I think we should get into the gas business,” he said, citing Batangas, Atimonan in Quezon, and Subic in Zambales as possible locations.

He made the comment in response to a question during the briefing about whether the investment of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) in Philippine Coastal Storage & Pipeline Corp. would tie into the investment in the SC 72 area. Mr. Pangilinan is chairman of MPIC.

Rogelio L. Singson, Meralco PowerGen Corp. (MGen) president and chief executive officer, said during the briefing that the company would continue exploring options for Atimonan One Energy, Inc. (A1E), the developer of the country’s first ultra supercritical coal-fired power plant in Quezon province.

“While we continue to explore options for our Atimonan site, we will continue to develop the site [in] preparation for the next opportunity,” he said.

A1E, which has been certified by the Department of Energy as an energy project of national significance, is a wholly owned subsidiary of MGen.

Mr. Pangilinan identified the A1E as a possible site for gas operations.

“If there’s a CSP (competitive selection process) this year… most likely, if Atimonan were available as a site, it certainly is a candidate to convert it into a gas plant. But we’re looking at other sites, whether we should locate in Batangas where all of the existing gas plants are located or should we build a new gas complex either in Atimonan itself in east coast of Luzon, or should we build one in west coast in Zambales or Bataan,” he said.

On Tuesday, Meralco shares at the local bourse improved 0.73% or P2 to finish at P276 apiece.

Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Angelica Y. Yang

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