Agus-Pulangi privatization might jeopardize GRP-MILF peace talks

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/28 July) — The privatization of the Agus and Pulangi power complexes by 2011 as  provided by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, will complicate the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Dr. Melchie Ambalong, president of the Lanao Power Consumers Federation or Lapocof, said.

Ambalong told members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Wednesday that the two systems are integral to the ancestral domain strand of the peace process.

“Control of territory and natural resources are vital elements in the negotiation. Privatization will stand in the way of the political settlement, Ambalong, a member of the Mindanao Commission on Women, said.

Ambalong was joined by a panel of speakers from Iligan and Bukidnon going around Mindanao and other parts of the country to campaign against privatization.

She said if the power complexes are privatized, it might expose power generation to possible sabotage by certain parties.

She said Agus flows from Lake Lanao, domain of the Maranaos. Pulangi goes through Maguindanao and also lands that are ancestral territory of the Higaonons.

Lapocof has campaigned against privatization as provided in the Chapter V of the EPIRA Sec. 47.

“The Agus and the Pulangi complexes in Mindanao shall be excluded from among the generation companies shat will be initially privatized” … “Said complexes may be privatized not earlier than ten (10) years from the effectivity of this Act,” the section provided.

Ambalong siad Iligan Rep. Vicente Belmonte filed House Bill No. 7106 to amend provisions of the EPIRA with regards to the sale, entitled “Expressing the strong opposition of the House of Representative to the sale and the privatization of the Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric plant complexes in Mindanao.”

“Invoking the powers vested by EPIRA in Congress, let us humbly ask Congress to see to it that the Agus and Pulangi hydro electric complexes will not be sold by 2011,” she told the provincial board members as she read a position paper of the group.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. said the provincial board will likely pass the resolution. But he asked the group’s alternative. He proposed that the government must maintain ownership and control of the two complexes and that a regional corporation will assume management and operations.

Ambalong and his colleagues admitted to MindaNews that right now their priority is to obtain a moratorium against the sale, with replacement mechanism under study.

Ambalong told the SP that for Mindanao, the proposal is to maintain the present set up, which is regulated by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

“With this set up, at least the consumers and businessmen have a voice. We have the chance of participating in the fluctuations of the electricity price by manifesting our intelligent intervention and opposition to the ERC which then would decide on what is the best rate that will give reasonable profit for the generators of electricity but most importantly what rate that is affordable to business establishments and the people,” she told the provincial board members as she encouraged them to file a resolution opposing the sale.

Privatizing the two complexes “will definitely increase our already high electricity rates,” she said.

Ambalong said that after the moratorium, the next work will be amendments to the EPIRA to ensure power rates will remain cheap in Mindanao.

Zubiri said they will support the move but asked Ambalong to include in the amendments the mandate over electric cooperatives and other power distributors to carry the cost of installing power in hard to reach areas like smaller villagers in the countryside. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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