TARGET PRACTICE: Cutthroat competition (Part 4)

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 May) – If there is one commodity that has become heavily talked about in Mindanao, it is power. Huge-muscled companies, the top conglomerates in the country, have been in Mindanao scouring for potentials in every corner of the island.

Because of the industry potentials, companies and their executives do not mind advisories in going to areas where they want to put their power plants. One case was that of a company whose top official, heavily secured even in its main headquarters, flew to a small town in western Mindanao to attend the ground-breaking activity of its power project.

Another group that is taking advantage of the situation is that of the so-called speculators. Many local companies, most of them hastily formed and without even a year of existence, have been applying for exploration of some areas with the only goal of selling these areas to companies with financial muscles.

Because power has become attractive, competition among companies have heightened in their attempt to corner the market. This is supposedly advantageous to the consumers because real competition brings down prices.

However, this is not what is happening.

Generating companies are fighting for the attention of distributing utilities, many of them electric cooperatives servicing the need of rural areas.

In a real competition system, companies are bidding out so they can sign purchasing contracts with the distributors. To be able to sign up a purchasing contract, these companies are supposed to offer lower rates.

However, some companies – sensing they cannot compete in a level playing field – have instituted dubious mechanisms to ensure that distributing utilities sign up with their projects. Reports were rife that some of these companies dangle “sweeteners” to attract the distributing utilities.

The bad thing about this is that what is taking place is detrimental to the consumers. Those companies that are using these onerous mechanisms are the ones who have yet to start their projects, so in the end consumers are at the losing end.

Although he has not admitted that this scheme exists, the public affairs officer of the Mindanao Development Authority who happens to be among the credible people who can discuss about the real situation of the power industry, Romeo Montenegro, admitted that even when new plants start operations there are still areas that are not immune to power interruptions.

So, dear consumer, be vigilant about the power situation in your area. Try to ask around about the officials of your electric cooperatives. If there are indications that they are using their positions for personal interests, dig deeper. If there are proofs, bring them to court. It is high time that you get involved because power is a social commodity. (Next: Conclusion)

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Carmelito Q. Francisco is managing editor of the Davao City-based Mindanao Times.)