Bukidnon Power Commission backs creation of Mindanao Power Corp.

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/05 June) – The Bukidnon Power Commission has thrown its support to the proposal of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to create the Mindanao Power Corporation (MPC) as a government-owned and controlled corporation.

The commission, composed of the provincial government, the two electric cooperatives in the province and other stakeholders, aired its stance during the 3rd Bukidnon Power Summit Tuesday at the Loiza’s Pavilion here.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. told the summit that a Mindanao GOCC is the “only way” and acceptable setup parallel to the calls to defer the privatization of the Agus and Pulangi power complexes.

He said the Bukidnon stakeholders can offer to run the Pulangi IV hydro-electric power complex in Maramag, Bukidnon.

In its previous summits, the BPC had proposed to raise capital to acquire Pulangi IV. Today, it passed a position paper renewing the call to create the Bukidnon Power Corp. which will rehabilitate and eventually manage the plant.

BPC clarified that the move no longer centers on “acquisition” but “participation.”

Zubiri cited that local government units, which form part of the BPC, are barred from buying government-owned or privatized assets.

“In so doing, we the stakeholders will be an active part of the program and strategies, proposed to pursue river basin management, improved rural renewable energy generation, desiltation processes, operation structure and management system,” the summit participants said.

Gov. Alex Calingasan cited the effort of the commission to uphold the decisions in the past two summits to oppose privatization and to assert rights over Pulangi IV if privatized.

“Hopefully, this summit will be the last (on the assertion over Pulangi IV),” he added.
The Bukidnon Electric Consumers (BECO) Foundation, one of the conveners of the summit, cited that rehabilitation includes not only the power complex, but also the river system, forests and watersheds.

But Zubiri admitted to MindaNews that the proposal to localize the management of Pulangi IV depends on the fate of the proposed Mindanao Power Corporation.
MinDA has pushed for the creation of the MPC to address the power woes in the island. The GOCC, it said, will oversee the operations of the Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants.

Once realized, the MPC would allocate annually P200 million for the restoration and management of Mindanao’s watersheds, especially in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon where the Agus and Pulangi hydro power plants are located, MinDA Chair Luwalhati Antonino said.

“The Agus and Pulangi hydroplants are our [Mindanao] crown jewels,” she said, adding that Mindanao’s relatively cheaper power makes it more advantageous for investors to locate in the region.

Antonino stressed that the reliability of hydropower plants in Mindanao, which supply more than half of the island’s power requirements, had been affected by the critical condition of the watersheds, aside from the reduced physical performance of the structures.

“The watershed condition in Mindanao is very alarming. The island-region’s forest cover now only stands at 21 percent,” she said in a statement.

Insufficient electric supply, reportedly due to generation deficiency of power plants, has beset parts of Mindanao in the past few months and is projected to linger in the coming years unless no new power plants will be constructed amid a growing demand.

Antonino said, as quoted in the report, it is best for the Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants to be run by Mindanawons, under the proposed government-owned power company.

She noted that “major environmental effort could not be fully expected if hydro power plants are privatized, stressing that we can’t compel a private entity to care for our watersheds.”

MinDA, she said, is implementing a program on watershed management called “Mindanao Nurturing Our Waters” (MindaNOW) that will be launched as part of environmental conservation measures in the island.

Antonino said that the pursuit of economic development in Mindanao must not come at the expense of the environment.

The Bukidnon Power Commission also passed a resolution endorsing BECO to have a seat in the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee, which President Benigno Aquino said during the Mindanao Power Summit, should be under MinDA. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)