CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/15 April) – Officials of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco) underscored the need to construct more hydro electric power plants to pull down power rates in Mindanao.
“As more coal and diesel power plants go into the Mindanao grid, we expect the skyrocketing of generation rates in the island, and the only way to pull this down is to bring in more hydro electric power plants,” said Fibeco chair Raul Alkuino.
The Mindanao energy mix is composed of hydro, diesel, coal and geothermal sources. Of these energy sources, hydroelectric power has the cheapest generation rates.
According to fibeco board member Regin Mordeno, their studies showed that power generation rates in Mindanao will shoot up to P17/ kilowatt hour in the next three years if no new hydropower plants go on line or if the ageing hydro electric power plants are not beefed up.
Fibeco and Greenergy Development Corp. are the pre-development undertakers of the proposed 300-mw Pulangi V hydro electric plant in southern Bukidnon and Roxas municipality in North Cotabato.
Alkuino said Fibeco has invested in the Pulangi V to ensure zero power interruption in Bukidnon upon its completion.
“Part of the conditions we are telling the would-be investors of the project is for Bukidnon to have a direct line or ‘embedded capacity’ from the power plant,” he said.
Right now, the 240-mw Pulangi IV hydropower plant in Don Carlos, Bukidnon is fed directly to the Mindanao grid.
“Now, there is no assurance that we get back Bukidnon energy demand of 50-60 mw once the power from Pulangi IV is feed to the Mindanao grid. Brown out djapon ang Bukidnon kung dunay system power shortage,” Alkuino explained.
Aside from assured power supply, Fibeco and the Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative (Buseco), the other power distribution firm in the province, will no longer pay transmission wheeling rates amounting to 30 percent of the total generation fee, he added.
Alkuino assailed some groups that have allegedly waged a disinformation campaign against the project.
Last Monday, members of the militant group Anakpawis and Task Force Save Pulangi River staged a rally infront of the Fibeco office in Maramag, Bukidnon to register their opposition to the project.
Alkuino, however, said that they were confused when the protesters started talking about agrarian reform and other social issues.
“So amo na lang silang gihatagan og tubig, ice cream and deployed our medical team kay init ra ba kaayo, basin dunay manginahanglan og medical attention, (What we did was gave them water and ice cream and deployed our medical team, in case some of the protesters would need medical attention because of the heat of the sun),” Alkuino said.
Fibeco board member and former NGO worker Felix Vergara appealed to those opposed to the project to substantiate their issues against the project rather than engage in sloganeering.
“I challenge them to bring their best arguments and we will listen. If they can prove that the human conditions in the affected communities will worsen because of the project, then we will shelve the project. If not, we should be partners in sustainable development,” Vergara said.
He said they can cite human development indicators in assessing the current situation of the affected communities and the potential development the Pulangi V project could bring to them.
“Dili man pwede nga i-romanticize ra nato kayo ang kahimtang sa kabus nga katawhan (we can’t just overly romanticize the poverty of the people) and we close our doors to any development initiative. And it is clear that without energy we cannot develop economically, and hydro power is the best option. It’s cheap and it’s clean compared to coal and diesel,” he added.
Lemuel Leano of the Pulangi V Project Management Office dispelled claims the project would inundate 22 barangays of Kibawe, Kitaotao, Dangcagan, Damulog, all in Bukidnon, and Roxas town in North Cotabato.
Lumad groups opposed to the project have expressed fears it would submerge sacred areas of their ancestral domain. They said Apu Mamalu, one of their most revered ancestors, was buried in one of these sacred sites.
“Truth is, only portions of the22 affected barangays will be inundated and these areas are not even fit for human settlement as these are mostly stiff slopes along the river,” Leano said.
The whole area that will be inundated is only 3,300 hectares and 40 percent of it is the current river, he said.
He assured that those that may be displaced would be resettled in prime agricultural lands and given assistance to develop their farms.
“Di lang nato intawon sila ibutang na lang sa bakilid (let’s not just keep them on the slopes) and in a remote mountain community their whole lives, we will give them a chance to resettle in a community where they can be productive and can be reached by basic services,” Leano said.
Alkuino said that the pre-development phase of the projects is almost done and that they are proceeding on schedule.
“Hopefully, this month, we can have the endorsement of all the affected barangays and municipalities,” he said.
Forecasts from the Department of Energy project a power deficiency of about 500 megawatts in five years.
Energy supply in Mindanao will however be fragile unless new power plants go online. As of last year, the energy reserve was only 7 percent with the island relying on its ageing hydro electric power plants, according to the DOE. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)