PNoy disappoints electric coops in power summit

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 14 April) – President Benigno Simeon Aquino III disappointed participants from electric cooperatives in the Mindanao Power Summit Friday when he did not commit to agree with their appeal to forego privatization of the Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric power complexes in Mindanao, a power official said.

Rene Cortizano, general manager of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative, said the President generally “accepted for review” the proposals of different presenters and did not expressly commit any change of position.

He said that based on PNoy’s statements, the summit did not address the problems that required immediate response, referring Mindanao’s power outages. Other officers of the Association of Mindanao Electric Cooperatives (Amreco) who joined him in the summit, Cortizano vows, shares the same view.

He said they are not sure if the President would heed their call to expedite the operation of the Iligan Diesel Power Plant (IDPP), which was cited as a possible immediate source of power to mitigate the scheduled shutdown of Pulangi IV on April 17. The IDPP is embroiled in a legal problem with the Commission on Audit, Cortizano said.

“It was not also clear if the President could seek Congress support to allow the temporary transfer of power barges presently stationed in Panay to Mindanao,” he added. The three power barges, like the hydro plants, are for privatization.

Cortizano said the President also did not show any commitment to the Bukidnon Power Commission’s lobby that in the case that privatization becomes inevitable, the Pulangi IV should be ran by local stakeholders, not by big corporations from outside the province.

“He just told us to submit our proposal,” he added.

Cortizano rated the power summit 50-50 in addressing their expectations. He said they were glad, however, that Mr. Aquino at least committed to put up a one-stop shop in Mindanao to process the permits to put up power generation projects like hydropower and biomass.

The President announced that they are studying the formation of a Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee, to be chaired by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), with representatives from the Department of Energy, National Power Corporation, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, and others from civil society, electric cooperatives, and the business sector.

In his speech, Aquino said the government is already implementing short term solutions to the power shortage.

He said Mindanao’s energy production capacity is at 1,280 megawatts, including the 200 megawatts from the barges. He added that the peak demand is pegged at 1,300 megawatts, so there is a shortage of 20mw more just to meet peak demand and an additional 150mw for reserve margin for a total of 170mw more needed “immediately.”

He said repairing Pulangi IV will give additional 100mw and 74 megawatts “can be run by embedded generation units”.

“Therefore, the 170mw need can now be met with your resources, because you have 174 that potentially can be tapped,” he added.

The President said it is important to save the National Power Corporation from debts and to free budget for other services of the government. He cited that Mindanao had an exemption to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

He said Mindanao then got oversupply of power, more than adequate then for the needs, and cheaper than what anyone else had.

But he said the equation on cheap power in Mindanao has changed and that to have more power Mindanawons might have to pay more to get it.

“The simple truth is: we can have a lot more energy, but we have to provide the incentives for businesses to come here to put up those plants. Therefore, there will be a change in what we have to pay. We will have to pay, perhaps, a bit more,” he said in his speech at the summit held in Davao’s Waterfront Hotel Friday.

Aquino said in his speech, a copy of which was posted on the government’s website, that “the old assumptions that allowed all of us to rely on hydroelectric power simply aren’t there anymore.”

“The status quo could be maintained, if – and I have to emphasize – if things didn’t change. But things have indeed changed: increasing population means increasing demand; increasing opportunities means increasing need for more power,” he added.

He said the old setup assumed abundant water.

“But the watersheds are vanishing, which results in the sedimentation of waterways, not to mention the effects of global climate change, which has drastically changed the amounts and frequency of rainfall,” he added.

Aquino announced the release of P2.6 billion for the large-scale rehabilitation of Units 1 and 2 of Agus 6 in Iligan City, “which have been neglected for the past 59 years.”

He added that the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has also approved the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Program, which allocates P7.24 billion for four river basins, two of which are in Mindanao. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)