Kidapawan bent on going to court to get power from geothermal plants

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 14 April) – Members of the city council here are bent on going to court if the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and other subsidiary agencies of the Philippine government refuse to dispatch 25 percent of the total supply from the two geothermal plants located in Mount Apo to the local electric cooperative.

Vice Mayor Joseph Evangelista, who presides over the Sangguniang Panlungsod, said they would seek a court order to compel Napocor to supply the service areas of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) the needed megawatts of power.

The city council is also seeking President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s intervention to immediately implement the provisions of Section 6(b) of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Section 5 (i) of Republic Act 7638 or the Department of Energy (DOE) Act of 1992.

Section 5(i) of RA 7638 (Department of Energy Act of 1992) mandates the DOE to “devise ways and means of giving direct benefit to the province, city, or municipality, especially the community and people affected, and equitable preferential benefit to the region that hosts the energy resource and/or the energy-generating facility.” The law made sure though that “other provinces, cities, municipalities, or regions shall not be deprived of their energy requirements.”

The DOE said in its IRR that “in times of energy shortage, the energy-generating facility shall prioritize up to 25 percent of its contracted or available capacity (whichever is lower) which shall be delivered to the appropriate electric utility for distribution to the official resettlement/relocation sites of the community and people affected, and thereafter, to the relevant host LGU or host region….”

The remaining 75 percent shall then “be dispatched to the grid so as not to unreasonably deprive other municipalities, cities, provinces, or regions of their energy requirements,” Section 6(b) of the DOE’s Energy Regulations No. 1-94 added.

The council is already preparing petition for mandamus, a writ which commands an organization to perform a certain action, to which the agency is required, pursuant to a statute.

Evangelista also cited a memorandum of agreement signed more than two decades ago that stated the host city and province where the geothermal power should be generated must have a direct line of electricity from the plant.

The Mount Apo geothermal plants, which produce 104 megawatts of electricity, are located at Barangay Ilomavis within Kidapawan, some 30 minutes ride from the city proper.

The Sanggunian said that Cotelco is thus entitled to have 26.25MW for dispatch to its service areas in the province of North Cotabato, including this capital city.

The province needs at least 32 to 36 megawatts of power daily, according to Cotelco’s spokesman Vicente Baguio.

The Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), a government-owned and controlled corporation, used to own the Mount Apo geothermal power plants.

But in 2008, it sold the facilities to the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) of the Lopez Group of Companies.

The EDC plans to put up its third geothermal power plant inside the 701-hectare reservation area for geothermal production at the Mount Apo.

The project, however, needs endorsement from the local government unit, including the provincial government of North Cotabato.

Kidapawan City councilor Lauro Taynan, chair of the Committee on Energy of the Sanggunian, warned the Mount Apo Geothermal Power 3 project would not get a backing from them if the EDC rejects their demand to give a direct supply of power from the plant to the distribution lines of Cotelco.

“This is non-negotiable. If the EDC won’t heed our demand to give us direct supply of power, then the project won’t get an endorsement from us,” said Taynan.

It is so “unfortunate,” Taynan said, that the city is host to two renewable sources of energy yet it experiences two to four hours, or sometimes even up to six hours, of daily rotating blackouts.

The EDC hopes to complete the project in 2014 and the commissioning of plant in 2015.

The plant is expected to generate additional 50 megawatts of power. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)