Group says conspiracy behind Mindanao power shortage, calls for congressional probe

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/11 June) – The Power Alternative Agenda for Mindanao (PALAG Mindanao) is seeking a congressional investigation on the reported power shortage in Mindanao, claiming they have proof to present that there was a conspiracy behind it.

Engr. Nestor Degoma, PALAG-Mindanao chair, told MindaNews via telephone Sunday they got hold of documents from reliable sources that showed the reported power shortage was man-made and allegedly a collusion of different agencies.

Degoma said Congress has to look into the problem to dig into the truth as the independent power producers (IPPs) allegedly got about 30 percent above their nominated or committed capacity. Degoma cited that this was also the time the electric cooperatives signed energy supply agreements with the IPPs. He said they are approaching some congressmen to pass a resolution calling for the inquiry.

Degoma said the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines was allegedly on top of the so-called “dagdag-bawas” in power supply allotment allegedly just to favor the IPPs.

He considered the scheme as one of many ways how “power shortage” is manipulated.

PALAG-Mindanao found out from the documents, he said, that the actual delivery of electric power from the Agus and Pulangi power plants have been reduced during the reported period when Mindanao was purported to have a power shortage while those from IPPs were increased compared to nominated capacity.

Degoma said there is an alleged technical manipulation to ensure proper dispatch of electricity to the grid based on the nominations made coming from the plant managers themselves.

“One of them told us that they nominated a higher degree of plant capacity but was only told to generate lower capacity based on the systems control coming from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines,” he said, as quoted in a press release by the Freedom from Debt Coalition.

PALAG-Mindanao opposed the privatization of the Agus and Pulangi power complexes. Degoma said this week, they are supporting the Mindanao Development Authority’s (MinDA) proposal to create the Mindanao Power Corporation, as a government-owned and controlled corporation.

He told reporters here Thursday the National Power Corporation became a part of the alleged conspiracy that used the shutdown of the Pulangi IV in April to May as a façade.

PALAG-Mindanao held a Power Forum at the Diocesan Formation Center here as part of the activities of their second general assembly meeting.

Milfrance Capulong, NGCP communication officer for Mindanao, denied there was a conspiracy led by NGCP.

She told MindaNews via telephone Monday that as systems operator of the power grid, NGCP had to make “technical adjustments” to ensure that blackout or prolonged power interruptions are avoided.

But she said calling it “manipulations” is way “very sensational.” She said NGCP is willing to sit down with anyone to discuss in simpler terms the technical adjustment they made.

She noted there were calls for congressional inquiry on the problem but she maintained that “there was nothing arbitrary in what they did.”

Degoma said they are determined to expose the real situation of the power industry in Mindanao after a seven-member team from PALAG-Mindanao inspected Pulangi IV on April 30 at the height of the shutdown, which he said became a prelude for rural electric cooperatives to be forced to buy power from IPPs.

Degoma said Pulangi IV, taking cue from a directive of the Department of Energy, proceeded with the preventive maintenance even if they can still operate in full capacity. The plant, he said, was classified for ancillary or peak loading, used only for reserve.

He added that NPC allegedly faked the repair because PALAG-Mindanao was in contact with the Iligan-based maintenance contractor and was told that it only cost P7.11 million.

“With that they can already restore Pulangi IV to its full capacity? It’s unbelievable,” he added.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras announced on May 11 that the completion of repairs on the Pulangi IV hydroelectric plant has addressed the problem of insufficient reserves in the area. But he also noted, as quoted by Manila-based news media, that while the situation is out from “crisis,” it is still at a critical stage because of the lack of contingency reserves.

“Thus, in the event of a failure in any of the power generation equipment, this will automatically result to a shortfall and blackouts. Therefore, we must not be complacent. We must continue to acknowledge the urgency of increasing the generation capacity in Mindanao,” he added as quoted by interaksyon.com.

Engr. Rudy Brioso, NPC OIC vice president for Mindanao, denied they were part of the conspiracy. He admitted that they could have delivered as much power even if they did not proceed with the shutdown. But he said the maintenance work was a scheduled one, from April 17 to May 17.

He also noted that the NPC spent about P60 million for the maintenance, not just P7.11 million as cited by Degoma.

Degoma said they could wait for the congressional inquiry to proceed, adding the NPC officials and employees could just be “victims” of the alleged conspiracy.

He added that the face of the conspiracy could be very complex and it could be repeated in the future. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)