MANILA -– Amid fears of massive displacement of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) working in oil-producing countries, senatorial candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to help affected OFWs shift to jobs in the country’s booming wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass power projects.

“Our countrymen displaced by the oil price crash may seek new gainful employment in booming ‘green’ power projects here at home,” the former senator said.

“The country now has dozens of new wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass energy development projects that may take in OFWs dislocated by the collapse of oil prices,” he added.

The oil price slump has forced many drillers around the world to plug and abandon their wells, or to drastically slash output.

Many of them say they need oil prices, which now hover around US$ 30 per barrel, to go back up to at least US$ 60 for them to make a profit.

“Should a Filipino oil worker be forced to come home due to the termination of his overseas employment contract, he will likely find a substitute renewable energy job in or near his native province,” Zubiri, the author of the Renewable Energy Law of 2008, said.

With jobs creation and clean energy using naturally replenished resources the cornerstone of his legislative agenda, he urged the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) to help dislodged OFWs find alternative jobs in local renewable energy projects that are now widespread in the countryside.

The senatorial candidate noted that in Negros Occidental, for instance, a massive solar farm in Cadiz City is now employing more than 2,500 workers.

According to the DOE, Zubiri’s Renewable Energy Law — Republic Act 9513 — has so far produced more than 2.9 million engineering services and construction jobs as a result of the boom in projects.

Last month alone, the DOE awarded 42 additional renewable energy service contracts that are expected to provide up to 1,700 MW of additional generating capacity to the national grid.

At present, 63 percent of the country’s electricity comes from coal, diesel and fuel oil that discharge hazardous greenhouse gases, degrade air quality and threaten public health.

Based on awarded deals, 26 new solar power projects are now being developed in Valenzuela City; Cordon and Sta. Maria in Isabela; Dasol, Pangasinan; Palauig, Zambales; Hermosa, Bataan; San Jose and Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija; Tarlac City; Guagua, Pampanga; San Idelfonso, Bulacan; Nasugbu and Rosario in Batangas; Calabanga, Camarines Sur; Bacolod City; La Carlota City, Murcia and Manapla, all in Negros Occidental; Mabinay, Negros Oriental; Naga City in Cebu; Jassaan, Misamis Oriental; and in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur.

Meanwhile, nine hydropower projects are now being put up in Buguias, Kabayan and Tublay, all in Benguet; Nagtipunan and Madella in Quirino; Majayjay and Magdalena in Laguna; General Nakar, Quezon; Maslog, Eastern Samar; and in Impasugong, Bukidnon.

Four wind and three biomass power projects are also being built in Burgos, Ilocos Norte; Naic, Cavite; Bago City and Valladolid in Negros Occidental; Naga City in Cebu; and in Buluan, Maguindanao.

“With more investments in green energy coming in, our OFWs would have jobs here at home,” Zubiri said. PNA/northboundasia.com