MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 May) – The First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco), proponent of the Pulangi V hydroelectric project, has terminated effective last month its contract with Greenergy, its consultant for the pre-development stage of the project, Fibeco general manager Rene Cortizano said Wednesday.
“We stopped because we wanted to reduce the cost and that Fibeco is capable of doing the remaining tasks of the project since they are no longer as complicated as before,” Cortizano told MindaNews via telephone.
“But they are still there to provide technical services as part of their commitment to us,” he said, adding Fibeco no longer pays Greenergy for those services.
He denied at the same time that the two firms had a falling out or that the termination would affect the proposed project.
He, however, said the Fibeco board was yet to inform Greenergy of its decision to terminate the latter’s services as consultant.
Greenergy had worked for the project’s acceptability, which included securing endorsements from municipal councils and the free and prior informed consent of the indigenous peoples who would be affected.
Cortizano said Greenergy failed to get an endorsement from the municipal council of Kibawe and the FPIC of the Lumads.
He said they had engaged the firm for about two years with a monthly fee of P260,000, a move that drew the ire of Fibeco’s critics including Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr..
Last year, Zubiri blew his top upon knowing that Fibeco wanted to obtain a P6.5-million loan with the National Electrification Administration (NEA), and yet spent 3.9 million for the consultants at Greenergy, which he thought was “unnecessary.”
Zubiri said if Fibeco can afford to spend much on consultants, then it need not apply for a loan that adds to the cost that consumers have to shoulder.
He proposed to hold the provincial board’s certification for Fibeco until it can furnish its financial report for 2010.
Cortizano admitted that terminating the contract could adversely affect the project, as Fibeco started it with Greenergy.
Last month, Datu Matingaw Petronilo Cabungcal, representative of the Save Pulangi Alliance reported to the provincial board that eight of the 10 barangays that had endorsed the project have withdrawn their support. He cited the alleged failure of the proponents to find a relocation site for those who live in areas that would be submerged once the dam is built.
Cortizano said he respects the position of the barangay councils but said there must be some lapses in explaining to the villages about the project.
He said they have to assume this task with the termination of the contract with Greenergy.
Fibeco was questioned last year about its role in the proposed multi-billion peso project amid its inability to replace the sub-transmission equipment for which they intend to use the NEA loan.
Cortizano said their job is to take charge of the social acceptability component before talking to takers of the proposed project.
“We are not going to be part of the construction of the project,” he told the provincial board then.
Fibeco officials said they initiated the proposed Pulangi V project during the previous power crisis.
“When we heard that Mindanao is expected to be short of 600 megawatts, we thought of the project since it will help our power consumers,” Cortizano said last year.
Fibeco and Buseco (Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative) have formed a consortium and eyed to obtain a P60-million loan to acquire the 69-kilovolt sub-transmission line within the distribution network in Bukidnon.
Raul Alkuino, then Fibeco board president told the Bukidnon Power Summit in January 2011 that they intend to obtain possession, operation, and management of Pulangi IV hydropower plant and also the
possible dredging project to get rid of the silt in the power complex.
The Pulangi IV possible takeover, he said, is part of their long-term plan, alongside the proposed Pulangi V project.
The Task Force Save Pulangi expressed opposition to the project. It noted that if pushed through, the project will displace 2,000 residents from 22 villages in the towns of Kitaotao, Dangcagan, Kibawe and Damulog in Bukidnon and President Roxas in North Cotabato.
Nineteen barangay councils of the 22 villages in the proposed Pulangi V area have endorsed the project, Fibeco officials told reporters in past interviews. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)