Mindanao lawmakers seek review of EPIRA

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/17 March) — Mindanao lawmakers want a review of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to address the worsening power situation of rotating daily brownouts, Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, MindanaoDevelopment Authority (MinDA) chair, said.

Antonino said there is a need to have major policy changes in the EPIRA or Republic Act 9136.
Passed in 2001, the law sought, among others, to privatize 10 years later or by 2011, the National Power Corp’s Agus and Pulangui hydropower plants. The plants provide more than half of Mindanao’s power supply.

“Based on series of discussions with, and subsequent recommendations from Mindanao power stakeholders, a significant deal with what needs to be done involves major policy actions such as review of the EPIRA law, among others,” said Antonino, who served three terms as representative of the first district of South Cotabato.

“MinDA is currently putting together a position paper and consolidating the inputs from rounds of stakeholder consultations, including Mindanao lawmakers, so that all of us are on same page on this issue,” she added.

Antonino said MinDA will convene a meeting of key power industry players and stakeholders to address issues on rotating brownouts affecting several areas in Mindanao.

She noted the power problem in Mindanao requires both immediate and long-term solutions involving everyone in the generation, distribution and utilization chain.

“We are confronted with this problem in Mindanao on a recurring fashion and it’s time we deal with this quickly and decisively,”Antonino said.

Earlier this week, a joint hearing of the Committee on Energy and the Special Committee on Mindanao Affairs at the House of Representatives came up with proposed measures to avert the worsening Mindanao power problem.

At the hearing, the lawmakers asked both the Departmentof Energy (DoE) and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) on the real energy situation in Mindanao.

The Mindanao congressmen also inquired on the status of dredging projects that were previously proposed to help improve the generating capacity of Mindanao hydro power plants.

In her report to the joint committee hearing, Energy Undersecretary Josefina Asirit said that as of March 11, Mindanao’s available capacity stood at 1,149MW, with peak demand reaching 1,300MW or a power shortfall of 151MW.

She also noted that apart from generation deficiency in the grid, the situation is compounded by non-compliance of some industry players such as distribution utilities and electric cooperatives on the load-to-maintain (LTM) matrix, which provides the basis for load curtailments.

She said sanctions would be imposed on those who are not complying with the LTM matrix to prevent over withdrawing of power above their nominated requirement.

Asked by Antonino what happened in the last four months that prompted the power supply shortage, Asirit pointed to the limited dispatched capacity of most of the hydro power plants which at times had become unreliable.

Antonino, however, noted that there have been no major incidents in the last four months that would warrant reduction of generating capacity of the hydro power plants and maintained that Agus II and Pulangi had about 65MW of untapped capacity that should have been utilized.

She emphasized that repair and rehabilitation of the hydro power plants should be given top priority even as she echoed calls opposing the sale of the hydro complex that could push rates up.

“Our efforts must be both at ensuring reliable power supply and leveling of the playing field for investments in Mindanao which is already disadvantaged by image problem, and shouldn’t be aggravated by high power rates,” Antonino said.

At end of the hearing, lawmakers led by Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez resolved to urge DOE to dredge the affected area; oppose the sale of the Agus and Pulangi Plants; implement Agus 3 construction; lower the reserve margin from 250 to 100, revisit EPIRA;  and lower  the extent of rotating brownout in areas affected by typhoon Sendong in December. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)