By Joe Zaldarriaga

Towards a sustainable energy future

September 19, 2023, 12:35 pm

As the Philippines moves towards achieving its target of becoming an upper middle-income country in the future, the need to ensure energy security has become more prominent to power economic growth and national development.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., in a speech during the US-ASEAN Business Council meeting in Malacañang last month, expressed interest anew in the potential of nuclear technology considering the innovations and the heightened prioritization of energy security by the government.

We have seen how the growing interest in clean and sustainable sources of energy has propelled a dynamic shift in the energy industry worldwide in recent years, including here in the Philippines.

But beyond achieving and ensuring a reliable, stable, and sustainable power supply for our country, energy security also requires the development of our pool of skilled technical professionals who can operate and develop the new technologies that are or will be available to us.

Thankfully, Meralco has long recognized the need to develop Filipino talents for a sustainable energy future. I was honored to witness last week the launch of the Filipino Scholars and Interns on Nuclear Engineering (FISSION) program of Meralco, which aims to hone aspiring Filipino nuclear engineers in preparation for the possible integration of nuclear technology here in the country.

Meralco chairperson and chief executive officer Manuel V. Pangilinan led the launch during the opening of the first-ever Giga Summit of the Meralco Power Academy, where local and international energy industry experts tackled new technologies, challenges, and opportunities for innovation.

“Meralco will send some of our engineers to a two-year graduate program targeting local talents who are graduates and practicing Mechanical, Electrical, Material Engineering, and related areas in universities in the US, Canada, Korea, Japan, France,” Mr. Pangilinan or MVP said during the launch.

The distribution utility announced that it is eyeing top global universities for the FISSION program such as the University of California in Berkeley, the University of Illinois, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and Université Paris–Saclay.

The FISSION program will also include a yearlong immersion and internship at Meralco’s partner small modular reactor facilities abroad like the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation to ensure that the scholars gain the necessary experience.

Once the scholars complete their studies, they are expected to return to the Philippines to share their expertise for a thorough and full understanding of how innovations can be utilized effectively for the benefit of our country.

The program shows Meralco’s commitment to innovation and support to the government’s goal of achieving energy security. With its decades of energy industry expertise, Meralco is no longer a stranger to adopting new technologies in an effective, safe, and efficient manner as it continuously introduces innovations to improve its delivery of electricity service to its customers.

Therefore, this recent development—the launch of the FISSION program—is only another testament to Meralco’s innovative and if I may point out, nationalistic nature—one that embraces a holistic approach to achieve the successful integration of new technologies for the benefit of Filipinos and the development of the country.

Moving forward, we must continue to support professionals and young students in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to keep the culture of innovation and excellence alive.

The FISSION program is already a step in the right direction, but we must do more to keep knowledge-sharing and innovation active.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.