Davao biz chamber to discuss power policy with other chambers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 February) — The Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., will initiate talks with other cities who are affected with brownouts to see how Davao’s own chamber organization can help shape Mindanao’s power policy, according to DCCCII executive vice president Daniel Lim.

“We are fortunate that we have no brownouts yet,” Lim said during the focus group discussion held by the Department of Energy at the Waterfront Hotel. “But it doesn’t mean that we should be complacent because anything that is connected with Mindanao will affect Davao one way or another.”

Lim said that the talks with chambers of commerce from other areas such as General Santos City and Zamboanga will help the chamber in pushing for amendments to the law.

“When we change a policy, we create a problem. It’s too early for me to comment on the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira),  Lim said.

Vicente Lao, Mindanao Business Council president, said that cost was the concern as far as consumers are concerned.

Lao said industries are getting worried about the country’s electricity supply especially with the coming ASEAN integration in 2015. “We don’t want the status quo at the moment. We have the highest price. We’re looking at the possibility of how we are going to reduce our costs,” he said.

“We will be in trouble if that’s the cost that we have,” he added.

Lao added that he was neither pro nor anti-EPIRA, but said that the law itself should be able to “lower costs” and “justify the status quo.”

Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) echoed calls to “reformat” the law during the sectoral forum on the same day involving labor groups and consumer.

“The power industry needs not just a reboot but a major reformatting to better serve the country’s current and future energy needs and to satisfy the people’s clamor for affordable and sustainable power,”  Kal Yngojo, convenor of the labor coalition group, NAGKAISA, said in a statement.

Yngojo, who is also the Mindanao coordinator for Power Industry of APL-SENTRO, told the DOE that workers will engage the amendment process in Congress and at the same time work for its replacements when such is probable amid the incurability of EPIRA and the viability of other options.

A convenor of NAGKAISA, Louie Corral of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), said amendments are necessary on issues of cross-ownership; the generation being a ‘non-public utility, reforms in the ERC (composition and rate-setting methodology); privatization of the transmission system and the Agus-Pulangi hydro complexes in Mindanao; retail competition and open access; and on electric cooperatives, among others.

The group said they were also for the re-nationalization of the transmission lines and the permanent stay in the planned privatization of the Agus-Pulangi.

“It’s time to rethink and come up with a new model of public power that is completely different from what the industry is, before and under EPIRA. Fortunately, we are blessed with so much national potential to do that. It is only the government that thinks it can’t be done without the prescribed track imposed by the ADB and World Bank,” Partido ng Manggagawa Mindanao spokesperson Gerry Torres said in a statement.

At the House of Representatives, Energy Committee secretary Efren Cortez, who attended the consultation, said Representatives Reynaldo Umali and Henedina Abad have filed a bill amending the Consumer Act of the Philippines that would create the Office of Protection of Electricity Consumers.

The bill has been approved on first reading, he said.  (MindaNews)