Greenpeace challenges claims of an impending power shortage in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 April)  — The city council’s second committee hearing on the proposed 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant by Aboitiz Corporation briefly turned into a debate on the alleged impending power shortfall in Mindanao by 2014, as a Greenpeace activist presented a study refuting the Department of Energy (DOE) projection.


Amalie Obusan, climate change campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, cited a study by a University of the Philippines economics professor, Teresa Pascual-Diokno, that there is “little statistical basis for the high demand of power” bandied around by industrialists who want to put up new power plants.

“If based on population growth alone, there is no need to put up additional power plants because the existing power capacity in the country can already serve the demand,” Obusan said, quoting the study.  “But if we consider the government’s agenda to promote extractive mining industries to foreign investors, then, it will support Aboitiz’ assertion that there is indeed a great demand for power.

The study also cited how the existing dependable capacity in Mindanao has not yet been fully utilized, as the biggest hydropower plants the Agus and the Pulangi complexes are not running at full capacity.  “Hence, the solution is not to put up new coal-fired plants but to rehabilitate the hydropower complexes.

“We agree with you, we are going to do all we can to help,” said Raymond Cunningham, Aboitiz Power first vice president for business development, “But if we look around the world,” referring to government-run power facilities, “these are all too familiar stories.”  The 700 megawatt Agus hydropower plant only produces around 60 per cent of its full capacity after Agus 3 was damaged by flood in 2009 and has not yet been repaired until now, Judge  Jaime Quitain, said. The 250 megawatt hydropower plant in Pulangi only produces some 100 megawatts of its capacity because of heavy siltation.

In turn, Manuel Orig, Aboitiz Power vice president for Mindanao,  cited the Wallace Report, a study made by Peter Wallace in August 2010,  predicting another power crisis to hit the Philippines, the worst  of which will hit in 2014.

Responding to questions, Aboitiz officials said during the hearing that they will look for another site next door if their project will not be accepted by Davao City communities.  “The easiest answer is just next door,” said Cunningham, in reply to a question where they will go if their project will not be approved in Davao City.

“That’s where we are now,” he said.
Top company officials  said the proximity to the national highway and  the sea were among the reasons they chose Binugao as an ideal site.  Cunningham said  the 52-hectare area that straddles the barangays of Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur and Davao City is also “free of informal settlers,” because it is owned by a single family.    (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)