HIGHLIGHTS

  • In 1974, as Chief of the Geothermal Division of the National Power Corporation, Alcaraz led in achieving the production of 550 megawatts of steam power at Tiwi and at Mac-Ban, making the Philippines the largest producer of geothermal electric energy from wet steam in the world. Under his leadership also, major geothermal energy fields in Leyte and Negros started development by the Philippine National Oil Company Energy Development Corporation, with the cooperation of New Zealand and specialists from elsewhere.
  • Alcaraz pursued the Philippines’ potential to generate 200,000 megawatts of geothermal electric power—about 40 times present total power production—at a competitive capital cost. Added to electricity from this energy source are possibilities for refrigeration, drying and salt production.
  • Even in retirement in 1981, ALCARAZ continued as a consultant to the Philippine National Oil Company, seeing to the training in tapping earth energy of a new generation of Filipino technicians—in New Zealand, Japan, the United States and Iceland.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes his scientific perspicacity and selfless perseverance in guiding Filipinos to understand and use one of their greatest natural resources.

 CITATION

Geothermal power is the largest source of economically and technically feasible energy now available in our planet. It derives from the molten mass filling the inner core of the earth, over which the surface on which we live forms a relatively thin crust. Problems with geothermal energy are that technology for its use is new and little known, and it is accessible only in the earth’s “hot spots.” With these the Philippine archipelago is well endowed, located as it is on the “Pacific Ring of Fire.” When accurately understood and wisely used this immense arc of tectonic and volcanic activity that girdles the Pacific Ocean, previously only feared for its earthquakes and eruptions, can become a major benefactor.

The use of geothermal heat is not new. Both Norse Vikings who settled Iceland more than 1,000 years ago and American Indians used geothermal geysers for cooking and baking. Maoris, who settled New Zealand some 600 years ago, grew their sweet potatoes in geothermally heated gardens.

The first industrial harnessing of steam from the earth began in northern Italy more than half a century ago, but the largest geothermal installation today is at The Geysers in California where dry steam readily lends itself to conventional generating, providing more than enough electric power for the city of San Francisco. However most of the geothermal energy available in the Philippines and elsewhere is wet steam—70 percent of production from a well may be hot water—and this demands a different and more difficult technology.

ARTURO PINEDA ALCARAZ was born in Manila in 1916 and grew up in Baguio where his father was city auditor during the gold mining boom. After studying a year at the University of the Philippines, ALCARAZ transferred to Mapua Institute of Technology when it offered the first degree in mining engineering. He earned a masters degree in geology at the University of Wisconsin and returned home in 1941 to be assigned by the Bureau of Mines to the island of Busuanga. Next posted to the Weather Bureau, its director, Maximo Lachica, introduced him to the science of seismology.

In 1952 the Philippine Congress responded to the destructive eruptions of Mount Hibok-Hibok on Camiguin Island by creating the Commission on Volcanology. Assigned as Chief Volcanologist, ALCARAZ began to pursue more fully the study of volcanos in order to improve eruption warning and assess possibilities for use of stored heat beneath them.

The first electric bulb in the Philippines lit by earth-heat energy was in Tiwi, Albay, on April 12, 1967. Three years later President Ferdinand Marcos set apart two geothermal reservations to be administered by the National Power Corporation (NPC), to which ALCARAZ transferred in 1974 as Chief of the Geothermal Division. The NPC, in cooperation with Philippine Geothermal, Inc., a subsidiary of Union Oil Company of California, has since brought on stream 550 megawatts of power at Tiwi and at Mac-Ban near Los Banos, making the Philippines the largest producer of geothermal electric energy from wet steam in the world. Meanwhile major geothermal energy fields in Leyte and Negros are under development by the Philippine National Oil Company Energy Development Corporation, with the cooperation of New Zealand and specialists from elsewhere. Present production is scheduled to be multiplied six times in the next seven years, thus further cutting down on oil imports.

The Philippines may have a potential to generate 200,000 megawatts of geothermal electric power—about 40 times present total power production—at a competitive capital cost. Added to electricity from this energy source are possibilities for refrigeration, drying and salt making.

Retired in March 1981 at age 65, ALCARAZ continues as a consultant to the Philippine National Oil Company, seeing to the training in tapping earth energy of a new generation of Filipino technicians—in New Zealand, Japan, the United States and Iceland.

In electing ARTURO PINEDA ALCARAZ to receive the 1982 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his scientific perspicacity and selfless perseverance in guiding Filipinos to understand and use one of their greatest natural resources.

 RESPONSE

Once in everyone’s lifetime, I suppose, there comes a moment of intense joy and happiness that is so overwhelming it seems almost unbelievable. Such a moment has just come into mine.

A year and a half ago, as I was approaching the age of compulsory retirement from government service, I was saddened by the thought that soon I would be parted from a work that has become my second love—the first, of course, being my wife. However, even after that time came, I was allowed to continue my involvement in geothermal energy development and I was happy; it was a source of personal satisfaction for it meant that my services were still of some use.

Then like a bolt from the blue, came the announcement that the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation had elected me as its 1982 Awardee for Government Service. I could hardly believe it. It was not possible, but it was so. Coming as it did in the twilight years of my life, it was indeed a moment of great joy for myself and my family. Suddenly life seemed to have an increased meaning—a new purpose for being.

After the elation had somewhat abated, however, came a moment of reflection and soul-searching. I asked myself, what have I really done to deserve such a great honor? Am I truly deserving? Then I realized that whatever it was that was being ascribed to me had been attained not by individual effort, but rather by the total efforts of so many. It was just my good fortune to have been singled out to represent this collective undertaking.

I have been cited for a role in the development of geothermal energy in the Philippines and in guiding national awareness to the use of one of the most valuable natural resources of the country. I feel deeply humbled for this signal honor accorded me, especially since it was more of a national effort rather than an individual one that brought the Philippines to its present position as one of the leading countries of the world in the use of geothermal energy.

Without the support given by the government and its instruments—the Executive Office, the National Science and Technology Authority, the Ministry of Energy, the Philippine National Oil Company, the National Power Corporation, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and the Bureau of Mines; by co-professionals, and by a host of agencies both foreign and local, geothermal development would not have progressed as much as it has. This development, born in the cradle of necessity some years before the 1973 energy crisis and nurtured through the state policy of energy self-reliance, is winning our battle for national economic survival.

In accepting the Award, I would like to express, on behalf of my immediate family and my geothermal family (since I am said to be the father of Philippine geothermal development) and on my own, a deep sense of gratitude to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, not only for the incomparable honor bestowed on me, but also for its recognition of geothermal energy as an important indigenous energy resource to a developing country like the Philippines.

To the Foundation Board of Trustees, I take this occasion for a sincere and most appreciative expression of my gratitude for this signal recognition to be counted among those worthy to give honor to the ideals which characterized the life of President Ramon Magsaysay and the courageous service which he rendered to the people of the Philippines.

 BIOGRAPHY

ARTURO PINEDA ALCARAZ was born in Manila, the Philippines, on March 21, 1916, the second child of Conrado Alcaraz and Paz Pineda. As a government auditor the elder Alcaraz moved frequently, so his five children attended schools in a number of different towns. ARTURO completed elementary school at Lucena, Quezon Province, in southern Luzon, in 1929. His father was then transferred to Camarines Norte, where ARTURO took his first year of high school, and then to Baguio City.

Going to high school in the cool hills of Baguio, which was then a pleasant small town, was a “wonderful experience” for the boy. In the early 1930s the region was enjoying a mining boom and Leopoldo Faustino, a cousin of his father and one of the first Filipinos to earn a doctorate in geology, was then Head of the Division of Mines of the Bureau of Science. He spoke so highly to the young man of mining as a career that when ALCARAZ graduated at the top of his class from Baguio City High School in 1933, he sought to prepare for that profession. Since there was no school of mining in the Philippines, he entered the College of Engineering, University of the Philippines in Manila. A year later when Mapua Institute of Technology, also in Manila, offered a degree in mining engineering, ALCARAZ transferred there, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from Mapua in 1937.

Although Faustino had died, the current director of mines, Quirico Abadilla, was a family friend and offered the new graduate a job. Aware of how much his father enjoyed government service, ALCARAZ accepted and entered the Bureau of Mines (the former Division of Mines was elevated to a Bureau) as an aide in the geology division, even though his classmates were choosing higher paying jobs in industry. He was to stay with government the rest of his life, in spite of the fact that he saw his friends making more money in the private sector. As he said years later, it was sometimes difficult financially, particularly when his children were in college, but he was doing what he liked and getting some recognition for it.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)