A questionable program
IN the light of what we know from official documents, the Aquino administration is seeking to divert development funds originally earmarked for solar energy projects to its own pet project, the distribution of electric tricycles.
How this administration chooses to use development loans is well within its authority, but the government’s lack of candor and unanswered questions about the e-trike program have cast doubt on the wisdom of its choices.
First, the Palace denied there was a diversion of funds, arguing semantically that there could be no diversion because the loan had yet to be approved. The official documents submitted by the Energy Department and the Asian Development Bank, however, belie those claims, clearly stating that the Philippine government sought “a reallocation” of $500 million in funding for solar power projects to e-trikes and energy-efficient appliances.
The civil society groups that met with the government recall how one Energy official justified the reallocation of funds as a national priority. In fact, they said, consultations had been necessitated because they had complained to the Washington D.C.-based Clean Technology Fund last year that the funding for the solar power projects had been diverted without proper, transparent and credible consultation.
In the light of these revelations, the Palace denials seem disingenuous, to say the least.
But there are other troubling questions. The release of the tricycles through local governments during an election year should set off alarm bells that money is being spent on what will indubitably be a politicized program. Will a town mayor bestow e-tricycles on those who would support his political opponent? The answer doesn’t require much thought.
Finally, there are questions on the viability of the program itself, and whether adequate support services are in place. These would include spare parts and repair services and charging stations, as well as environmentally sound disposal facilities needed to make the program a real success.
Unfortunately, a pilot test in Mandaluyong City has not been encouraging. In a year, about 30 percent of the e-trikes distributed in that city had broken down and are now confined to the garage—contrary to the government’s rosy projections that the units would last 10 years.
Despite this less than auspicious start, the administration proposes to spend P21.5 billion on what looks clearly like a problematic program. What is even more tragic is that, in its rush to push its pet project, the government, despite its denials, is taking funds away from a viable program for tapping a clean and renewable energy source.
(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/June/20)
19 June, Manila - The ADB-designed electric tricycles that the Philippine government wanted deployed nationwide next year at a cost of P21.5 billion had proved “problematic” in pilot tests in Mandaluyong City, civil society groups warned. Read more...
18 June, Manila - Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, United States and France have agreed to postpone approval of the ADB-designed E-trikes project until after the outcomes of consultations have been made available to the Trust Fund Committee. Read more...
15 June, Manila - ADB and the Energy Department confirmed reallocating funds to e-trikes and e-appliances during the May 2012 consultations. Shortly after, they reverted the US$24 million funds intended for e-appliances to solar power projects. Read more...
14 June, Manila - Palace documents show that Philippine government presented its revised Clean Technology Fund Country Investment Plan to the Trust Fund Committee last November to avail of an ADB loan that will finance the e-trikes project. Read more...
13 June, Manila - Civil society groups protested the “fund diversion” by the Philippine government and the ADB of a solar power project worth US$500 million in foreign loans in favor of 100,000 energy efficient electric trisysles and e-appliances. Read more...