Mindanao pols urged to take stand on Mindanao power woes

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/06 April) — Politicians in Mindanao should take a stand on the current power deficit in the island and the impending privatization of the Agus and Pulangi hydropower complexes, an official of a power consumers group today said.

“We have to know how they stand on the power deficit and in the issue of privatization of the Agus Pulangi hydropower plants,” Lucita Gonzales, secretary general of PALAG (Power Alternative Agenda) for Mindanao, told MindaNews at the end of the group’s cluster meeting today.

Gonzales said the candidates should consider the power deficit in Mindanao as a leading consumer rights issue.

The meeting, held at the Diocesan Formation Center here, focused on “Promoting Public Awareness and Involvement in Asserting Alternatives in the Power Industry in Mindanao.”

“We will challenge politicians to stand by the consumers,” Gonzales said citing that the pro-privatization stand of the Aquino administration may have affected the politicians’ position.

She added that they are planning to hold talks with members of the House representatives, provincial board members, city councilors and Mindanao’s governors.

“Are they towing the line of the government on the alleged reason behind the deficit?” she asked.

PALAG has urged Mindanao consumers to be informed and inform others of the real situation of power in Mindanao. It also urged consumers to seek a congressional inquiry on the power situation.

Gonzales said among the issues they will bring up with candidates is their support to calls for a congressional inquiry or a third party investigation on allegations of conspiracy behind the power crisis.

“We have no exact basis. But based on a check on water level and capacity, Agus and Pulangi can very well produce what’s needed. We want to know why only half of the capacity of the hydropower plants was generated,” she added.

PALAG is holding a series of meetings in Pagadian, Iligan, Malaybalay, Davao, and General Santos from April 2-10 to promote their campaign against privatization and for the use of renewable energy.

Nestor Degoma, PALAG-Mindanao chair urged for sustained efforts in opposing the privatization of Mindanao’s hydropower complexes and in promoting the use of renewable energy sources.

Degoma cited that the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) is fast-tracking the privatization of the two hydropower complexes.

PALAG alleged that the Department of Energy has announced wrong information on the cause of the power deficit.

“The usual reason from DOE on the Mindanao power crisis is water deficiency from our hydro plants especially during summer. But the difference is not too much,” Degoma said.

He cited that the current water level in Pulangi as of March 26 was at 285.10 meters of the 285.5 meter “spill level.” In Agus, he added, it was 700.17 meters of the 702 meter-spill level.

He said insider sources revealed that the seven hydropower plants can generate more power than announced. The total hydropower and geothermal available capacity is only 57.6 percent or 629 megawatt of the 1,090 megawatts installed capacity.

He added that, on the other hand, the available capacity of the privately-owned thermal power plants is mostly at 80-99 percent, except for one plant, PB 104, which has been on outage since 2011.

In his presentation, Degoma said that for 2013, capacity will exceed peak demand if the interruptible load program will turn in 183 megawatts based on PSALM figures and the 100-megawatt capacity of the Iligan Diesel Power Plant is included.

He said the existing capacity, including embedded generators, of 1,384.4 megawatts, and the 30 megawatts committed projects will exceed the 1,484 peak demand estimate for this year.

Ruby Macabaya, chair of the civil society organizations in Quezon town said the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (FIBECO) said nothing about the alleged reasons behind the power shortage that Degoma cited.

She said FIBECO attributed the decreased capacity to siltation.

Macabaya, also chair of the FIBECO-organized Multi-Sector Electrification Advisory Council in Quezon, said she had become confused on what to believe.

But she backed the call of PALAG for a probe on the real reason of the power deficit.

“The consumers deserve to know what is at the bottom of this. The government has to investigate,” she added.

Degoma said siltation is a valid problem but that the power plants can produce more.  He said the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines limited the plants’ generation capacity in favor of the private power producers.

In a press conference on March 26, Cynthia Alabanza, NGCP corporate communications head said NGCP only implements power allocations set by the National Power Corporation. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)