Privatization a non-issue vs Mindanao power shortage – Guingona

DALWANGAN, Malaybalay City (MindaNews/5 April) – The privatization of the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric power complexes is a secondary issue compared to Mindanao’s power shortage, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said here today.

Guingona said the deferment of the privatization has been the recommendation of the Department of Energy on the issue.

The senator is in town to turn over a P15-million mini-dam for the water system here and in the villages of Pat-pat and Kalasungay, which was funded from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

He said the more important issue is for Mindanao to have enough power supply that is “reliable” at a “reasonable” cost.

This was his reaction on the proposal of groups pushing to file a bill in Congress deferring the privatization of the two power complexes. The privatization, mandated by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), is to take effect this year after an earlier 10-year deferment.

The EPIRA provides that the Agus and Pulangi hydropower complexes may be privatized this year even if these were excluded from among the generation companies that were initially privatized.

The law says the privatization of the two power plants will be left to the discretion of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp., in consultation with Congress.

Guingona said Mindanao should pursue more hydro-power generations despite oppositions. “There will always be opposition but the people have to make up their minds (about what they really wanted),” he added.

Lumads in the province are opposing the proposed 300-megawatt Pulangi V project in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato.

Guingona said with the opposition to nuclear power and coal, Mindanao is left with no other choice but to tap its hydro resources.

In an advertisement published in the Mindanao Business Week last month, a group of electric consumers from Bukidnon expressed their “strong opposition” to the privatization. They argued that it will increase the power rates in Mindanao and will only “benefit the rich, to further enrich themselves.”

“The privatization or sale is actually selling the Filipino people to the capitalists at the extent of the poor, which is the majority of the Filipino people,” they added.

Signed by 280 electric consumers, the ad called on the government to stop the “all-out” effort of the Department of Energy, PSALM and the National Power Corporation to “fast-track” the privatization.

They called on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to “order” Congress to pass a law banning the privatization of the two power complexes.

They also asked Aquino to direct the DOE, PSALM, and NPC to rehabilitate the two complexes through desiltation or dredging and intensive reforestation program, among others.

In a meeting here last month, the Power Alternative Agenda in Mindanao (PALAG) expressed its opposition to the privatization, saying the two complexes no longer have debts and are no longer incurring losses. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)