No takers yet on proposed Pulangi V hydro project

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 Jan) – There are no investors yet interested on the proposed Pulangi V hydroelectric power plant in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato, according to Rene Cortizano, general manager of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco), the group proposing the project.

This was revealed by Cortizano to the Bukidnon provincial board Wednesday afternoon when asked by board member Alfeo Baguio during interpolation for Fibeco’s proposed P6.5-million loan with the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Baguio questioned Fibeco’s role in the multibillion-peso project when it cannot even afford to replace the sub-transmission equipment for which they intend to use the NEA loan.

Cortizano said they are only taking charge of the social acceptability component before they will be able to talk to takers of the proposed project.

“We are not going to be part of the construction of the project,” he told the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

He said at the session that Greenergy, the conduit firm in their social acceptability campaign, is not an investor but a consultant.

Cortizano told MindaNews they are talking to no investors yet since they need to secure social acceptability first.

He added that Fibeco took initiative of the proposed Pulangi V during the last power crisis.

“When we heard that Mindanao is expected to be short of 600 megawatts, we thought of the project since it will help our power consumers,” he said.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. fumed when Cortizano admitted that they hired Greenergy for P260,000 a month to help them obtain social acceptability in the affected areas.

Zubiri said if they have budget for about P3.9 million to hire consultants, which he considered “unnecessary” to Fibeco’s main business, then they really need not apply for a loan that adds to the cost that consumers have to shoulder.

Zubiri proposed to suspend the provincial board’s approval of a certification that Fibeco consulted them about the loan until they can furnish their financial report for fiscal year 2010.

The vice governor urged Fibeco and the Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative to focus on their main business instead.

Fibeco and Buseco have considered obtaining forming a consortium and obtain a P60-million loan from still unknown source to acquire the 69-kilovolt sub-transmission line within the distribution network in Bukidnon.

Raul Alkuino, Fibeco board president, also told the Bukidnon Power Summit on January 6 that they intend to obtain possession, operation, and management of Pulangi IV hydropower plant and also the possible dredging project to get rid the of the silt in the power complex.

He told MindaNews the Pulangi IV possible takeover is part of their long term plan, alongside the proposed Pulangi V project.

On January 17, about 500 farmers from barangays in southern Bukidnon, which are expected to be affected with the proposed Pulangi V, picketed the Fibeco office in Kibawe town to renew their opposition to the project.

The Task Force Save Pulangi expressed opposition to the project. It noted that if pushed through, the project will displace 2,000 residents from 22 villages in the towns of Kitaotao, Dangcagan, Kibawe and Damulog in Bukidnon and President Roxas in North Cotabato.

They opined that the farmers will not benefit from the project but will only concentrate wealth and power to Fibeco.

The group, backed by Kasama Bukidnon, an alliance of farmers’ groups, also called for the repeal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).

About 19 barangay councils of the 22 areas in the proposed Pulangi V area have endorsed the project, Fibeco officials told reporters in past interviews.

Roberto Amejos, chairman of Barangay Pinamula in Kibawe and chair of the Task Force Save Pulangi, told MindaNews that until all areas endorse the project, it will not obtain social acceptability.

He said he has not yet changed his position, so the municipal mayor of the town also did not endorse the project. He said they have convinced three new barangay captains not to endorse the project.

Alkuino told MindaNews after the picket Monday afternoon that they respect the group’s action. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)