Bill stopping sale of Mindanao’s hydropower complexes to be filed

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/07 July) – Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte will push for a bill that will stop the outright sale of the Agus and Pulangi hydropower complexes this year.

The draft bill, said to be a product of a series of consultations, aims to “retain the public ownership of Agus and Pulangi Hydro Complexes and to order Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) to stop the process of privatization of the Agus and Pulangi hydro complexes in Mindanao.”

“Mindanao people are witness to this deregulation by privatization whose negative impact in terms of higher electricity rates is much more felt now,” the bill says.

Belmonte said the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 was originally intended to reduce the cost of electricity and ease the burden on the part of consumers but it has evidently become anti-poor and anti-people.

“Privatization leading to free market trading achieved privatization only without its attendant lowering of electricity cost,” he said.

“Mindanao’s greatest competitive advantage supposedly is that its cost of power is lower than Luzon and Visayas because of the existence of Agus and Pulangi hydro complexes but the state ownership of these is threatened because of privatization,” the lawmaker said.

PSALM targets to privatize the Agus complexes this year.

The bill warns that privatization would make electricity rates soar because the government intends to attract buyers through incentives that would enable them to easily recover investments.

It also warns of the possibility of price manipulation as PSALM has the power to appoint Independent Power Producer Administrators (IPPAs) or “middlemen”.

Belmonte argued that “once Agus/Pulangi complexes are sold, there is a probability that the new owner will have controlling interests in distribution utilities because cross-ownership is allowed under the law and may result to ‘sweetheart’ supply contracts between distribution and generation.”

He described the sale of the Agus and Pulangi complexes as synonymous to the sale of the country’s patrimony at a giveaway price to exploitative conglomerates as happened to the privatization of the National Steel Corporation.

For the past few months, the congressman has sanctioned the Lanao Power Consumers Federation (Lapocof) to conduct information dissemination drive in major regions of Mindanao.

Recently, the team led by Lapocof chair Dr. Melchora Ambalong met with officials in the Zamboanga Peninsula to discuss the issue and gain support for the bill. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)