Gov't still undecided on privatization of Mindanao's major hydropower complexes

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 October) — The government has remained non-committal on whether to push through with the privatization of Mindanao’s major hydropower complexes as provided for in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (Republic Act 9136), Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) Chair Luwalhati Antonino said.

She said Congress was still studying the proposal to amend RA 9136 over fears raised by the business sector that privatizing the Agus and Pulangi hydropower complexes might cause power rates in Mindanao to go up.

“We have passed on to the President the resolution of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) against the privatization of Agus and Pulangi,” the official said.

“They (PCCI) are afraid that privatization might jack up power rates in Mindanao. Right now, the proposal is still being studied in Congress, whether or not it’s necessary to file a bill to amend Epira,” she added.

The Epira seeks to trigger competition in the power generation sector by privatizing government’s power generation assets currently being run by the National Power Corporation (NPC).

Both the Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants of NPC are scheduled for privatization by 2011 under the Epira.

For years, Mindanao has enjoyed cheaper power rates compared to the rest of the country because it has mainly relied on hydropower, which is cheap compared to other power sources.

But since the Epira has failed to bring down power rates in Luzon and the Visayas nine years after its passage, some groups have expressed apprehensions that selling out Mindanao’s largest power plants might only cause power rates in the island to go up.

Antonino, however, said the government is also worried over the possibility that its continued control over Mindanao’s largest hydropower plants will discourage other investors in the power generation sector from coming in.

Wala nang papasok na iba (no other investor will come in) because they can’t compete,” she said.

Antonino said that next to peace and development, the power sector remains the top priority to attract investments in Mindanao.

”Without a stable power supply, Mindanao cannot entice businesses to come in,” she stressed.

Antonino said many projects have been eyed in the renewable energy sector, which covers geothermal, wind and even solar power, although these have limited target capacities.

Among these projects is the 50-megawatt solar power plant being eyed inside the export processing zone in Zamboanga targeted for possible investors from the East Asean Growth Area (Eaga), a growth polygon composed of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)

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