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Renewable Energy: caring for the environment, creating green jobs

 

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) together with the Climate Change Commission and the National Youth Commission, and labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) pushed for the creation of “green jobs” to help increase employment opportunities while helping the country achieve sustainability.

During the “1st Philippine Green Jobs Conference” held at the SMX Convention Center last week, DOLE defined green jobs as jobs that reduce environmental impact, contribute to climate change solutions and result not only in environmental but also in economic and social benefits to the community and to the workers.

“Green jobs include those resulting from investments using green technology and green industry practices. It could also be green goods and green services. Green jobs could therefore be new or existing jobs and everybody can contribute to the creation and expansion of green jobs,” said Executive Director Cynthia Cruz of the DOLE Institute for Labor Studies, Green Jobs Conference Secretariat Chairperson.

In a paper published by the Institute for Labor Studies, “From Jobs to Green Jobs: A Just Transition Framework”, Cruz noted that investments in transitioning the economy away from carbon-intensive energy, minimizing degradation of natural resources, maximizing the efficient use of natural capital and protecting people and the planet from pollution and waste give rise to a new demand for labor.  These green investments as they are called are expected to create measurable impacts on employment as these now become the source of new green jobs.

“A green jobs strategy that will propel the move to a low carbon economy should place premium on creativity and innovation and put the general economic pressure for higher level skills and risk-management strategies – all of which need to be better understood if the Philippines is to capitalize on arising opportunities,” said Cruz.

 

Renewable Energy: viable source of green jobs

One of the industries that could contribute immensely to the creation of green jobs is the power industry. Under the Philippine Energy Plan, 2009-2030, power plants running on renewable energy are expected to double within the next 20 years. Thus, there is a great potential to create green jobs in this sector.

Based on industry estimates, if the Renewable Energy (RE) Law will be fully implemented without delay, the RE industry can generate up to 50,000 jobs over the next 20 years. This assumes that the other emerging technologies such as wind, solar, biomass are also developed.

“Generating renewable energy does not only produce clean energy from sustainable sources that will benefit the community through the protection of the environment, it also creates much needed green jobs for Filipinos,” Jerome Cainglet, Vice President of First Gen Corporation said during the conference. Cainglet was one of the panelists for the conference session “Green Jobs in the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Sector.”

First Gen is widely recognized by the industry as the leading clean and renewable energy company in the Philippines. It operates natural gas, geothermal and hydro power plants across the country and accounts for 18 per cent of the country’s total installed capacity.

Cainglet said that in a span of six years starting 2004, First Gen’s power plants have reduced its carbon intensity by almost 30 per cent while significantly increasing its power generation capacity by about 50 per cent simply by investing more in renewable energy. Overall, First Gen’s carbon intensity is on average 62 per cent lower than the Philippine average across the three main grids (Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao).

Cainglet said that at the peak of the construction of a run-of-river hydropower plant, more than 100 skilled and unskilled workers are expected to be employed. Hydro power plants could take three years to construct.

Operation and maintenance of a hydropower plant has a manpower requirement of about 30 employees. This excludes those who will be employed from other economic or business activities that could sprout as a result of the construction and operation of the power plant. 

“Green jobs include those in their operations and technical services, administrative works, repairs and maintenance, security, and other support services,” Cainglet said.

Similar to what it did for its previous projects, Cainglet said that First Gen can partner with institutions such as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to train residents in the communities hosting the projects to help them acquire the needed skills and qualifications for employment in the projects. 

“We give back to the community by working with its members and the relevant government agencies to uplift the quality of life of the project’s host communities with activities such as the conduct of medical missions, livelihood and skills training, watershed management and environmental protection programs. First Gen has partnered with various non-profit institutions to develop and implement projects that have a significant impact in the fields of environmental conservation and education,” Cainglet added. 

 

Green jobs and Decent Work

 Meanwhile, the FFW, a conference partner, maintains that for a job to be green, it ought to be decent.

Tony Asper, FFW Vice President for External Affairs, who was also a panelist at the conference session said that, among others, workers should negotiate for recognition of workplace environmental representatives, whether as part of the occupational safety and health committee or not.

“Workers should advocate for new rights such as the right to information and whistle-blower protection,” Asper said.

Asper is referring to the disclosure of a company’s operations to determine if it harms the environment; and security for employees who might discover anomalies in the process, such as possible violations of environmental laws.

“Thus, workers should also fight for the right to refuse dangerous work and the right to refuse work that is destructive to the environment,” Asper added.

Others joining the panel were Atty. Pete Maniego, National Renewable Energy Board Chair; FortunatoSibayan, Solar and Wind Energy, DOE; and, David De Montaigne, Green Power Panay.

The Institute for Labor Studies is the Conference Secretariat for the 1st Philippine Green Jobs Conference.   It is an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment and serves as the policy and advocacy arm of the Department. 

 

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