Power crisis in Mindanao artificial, says NorthCot gov

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/15 March) – North Cotabato Gov. Lala Talinio-Mendoza regarded as “artificial” the power shortage in Mindanao.

Mendoza said those behind the projection that the region is in crisis are allegedly putting pressures on the local government units and the national government to push through with the full privatization of the power industry.

There is a pending plan to sell the remaining power plants in Iligan City and Bukidnon and the other two power barges in Mindanao to private firms.

Mendoza, however, is bent on opposing the plan.

“I am made to believe that there’s a deliberate plan to set up all LGUs and electric cooperatives to submit to the privatization. So they project it through putting up an artificial shortage of our power,” said Mendoza.

Of all the three power grids in the country, Mindanao has the lowest electric rate because it gets power mainly from hydroelectric and geothermal power plants.

On Tuesday, during a public hearing led by the House Committee on Energy, Mendoza, along with other LGU officials from Mindanao, asked power producers in the region to lower their power reserve. She said every power generator has reserve electricity.

“But the NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) is projecting that we have negative reserve of power for Mindanao, which I believe is wrong,” said the governor.

Also, she sought that the LGUs where power sources are located should be given a direct line so they could enjoy 24-hour electricity.

“In North Cotabato, we host the geothermal power plants, which produce 98 megawatts. Yet, we experience three to six hours of blackouts daily,” lamented Mendoza.

What irked the governor is that the power industry, at this time, is no longer a utility but a commodity, thus she suggested that the government impose a 12-percent cap in the profit generation of the private power firms.

“Because our power is already a commodity, the profit orientation of these firms is already sky’s the limit. And that is not healthy, very frustrating to most of us,” said the governor.

She also maintained that the Department of Energy (DoE) no longer has control over the “artificial power shortage” being projected by power firms in Mindanao.

“If we allow full privatization of our power industry, for sure, our electricity rates will skyrocket. The country’s power rate is the highest in Asia, and we’re eighth in the world. Yet, we’re a poor country,” said Mendoza.

Since last week, the service areas of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) have been experiencing three to six hours of power interruptions daily.

On Wednesday, Vincent Baguio, spokesman for Cotelco, said the NGCP has reduced its supply of power for North Cotabato – from 32 to 22.2 megawatts – after the cooperative failed to stick to the load curtailment. This, he said, resulted in the daily brownouts. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)