Militants walk out of consultation on power supply deal in GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 January) – Some 50 members of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan walked out of the consultation yesterday on a power supply contract between the South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II) and the Sarangani Energy Corporation, after organizers prevented the group’s spokesperson from speaking beyond the time set for the presentation of its position.

The protestors later joined some 30 other companions outside the Lagao Gym, the venue of the consultation, where they held a picket and rally.

Consultation moderator Ed Cejar ordered sound engineers of the gym to cut off the sound system when Bayan’s Kath Cortez refused to stop reading a prepared statement after consuming her allotted time to air questions and positions during the open forum.

Under the contested power sales agreement, the two parties agreed to a 70-megawatt base load sales-purchase deal at an indicative price of P5.06 per kilowatt hour when SEC starts generating electricity in 2015, a slight increase from the prevailing P4.87 per kilowatt hour price of the National Power Corporation (NPC).

During the consultation Socoteco II general manager Rodolfo Ocat defended the 25-year power supply contract with SEC amid intense scrutiny from opposition led by General Santos City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio.

In the last of four public consultations ordered by the Energy Regulatory Commission, Ocat argued the power sales agreement now pending approval before the energy body is the best and cheapest available supply the electric cooperative could get by 2014 and under prevailing prices and conditions.

Custodio later appealed to the organizers of the consultation to allow those who are against the power sales agreement enough time to air their opposition.

The city mayor however conceded that the consultation was not the venue to halt the deal.

She said the city government will have to present a strong argument before the ERC board which will decide on the application of Socoteco II and SEC.

All power sales agreement between energy providers and distribution utilities will have to be approved by the ERC before these can take effect.

At present, Socoteco II reportedly needs 102 megawatts during peak hours.

Ocat, however, said that they are projecting an annual increase in demand by 4.2 percent.

Last year, NPC told Socoteco II in an advisory that the government-owned power company could now only supply 70 percent of the power requirements of the cooperative.

This prompted Socoteco II to enter into a supply contract with Therma Marine Inc. for 18 megawatts at P9.10 per kilowatt-hour.

Under the said supply contract with Therma Marine, Socoteco II agreed to pay the Aboitiz-owned diesel-fired power barges capacity fee even if the cooperative is not using power from the said energy provider.

Ocat earlier said that as a result of the power sales agreement, Socoteco II is passing on to its consumers an average of P0.40 per kilowatt hour (kwh) as capacity fee and P0.60 per kwh if the Therma Marine is providing power supply.

He warned that without assurances it can get additional available power supply in 2015, the city could suffer up to three hours of daily brownouts. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews)