Gov’t is addressing Mindanao’s power woes – PNoy

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) – Blaming the Arroyo administration for Mindanao’s energy problem, President Benigno Aquino III said the government is now exerting efforts to stabilize the island’s power situation.

At his almost two-hour fourth State of the Nation Address, the President stressed that the recurring blackouts in Mindanao made up the long list of problems that he inherited from the past administration.

“From the very beginning, we have been working on a solution for this – but we are also aware that a problem that has been ignored for an entire decade cannot be solved overnight,” Aquino said in the English translation of his SONA released by Malacañang.

“Right now, we continue to take steps to address the shortages as well as provide for immediate needs. We have helped electric cooperatives bring in generator sets (gensets) that will reduce brownouts; and this will continue until the plants that will supply the region with more electricity are completed,” he added.

Aquino, however, admitted that the plan of the government to introduce gensets is facing resistance.

“But the critics will never fully disappear. Some are complaining that the price of electricity will increase with the usage of diesel-fueled generator sets. Hydropower is abundant now because of the rainy season, so we hear objections to the generator sets. But come summer, many will once again complain about eight-hour brownouts,” he said.

Aquino said the government wants more power plants built not just in Mindanao but also in other parts of the country.

He noted that as the economy grows, so will the consumption of electricity, which means there’s a need to increase supply.

“Do we really want to wait until our plants are at full capacity before more plants are built? Power plants do not sprout like mushrooms – a power plant takes two to three years to construct,” Aquino said.

Prior to the last May 2013 elections, parts of Mindanao suffered rotating brownouts lasting up to eight hours daily due the generation deficiency of government-run hydropower power plants, which was partly blamed on low water levels in Lake Lanao, aside from the deterioration of the aging plants.

As of June 2013, the committed power projects in Mindanao until 2016 could produce 588 megawatts, data from Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) showed.

Already under construction are the 300-MW Therma South, Inc. coal-fired plant in the boundary of Davao City and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur and the 200-MW coal power plant of Sarangani Energy Corp. in Maasim, Sarangani.

Santiago Tudio, manager of the South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative, stressed that swift government action is badly needed on the immediate and long-term solutions to the power problems facing the island.

“To address the [power] shortage [problem], permits for gensets and ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) approval should be fast-tracked,” he said in a text message.

Romeo Montenegro, MinDA director for investment promotion and public affairs, said in a statement last Saturday that President Aquino has already issued Executive Order 137.

“The MinDA expects EO 137, which mandates the implementation of the Mindanao modular gensets program to firm up and fast track the process of assisting electric cooperatives in Mindanao through the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (AMRECO), to generate direly needed capacities either via rental or acquisition option,” Montenegro said.

The Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC), co-chaired by MinDA and the Department of Energy, early this year concurred with the proposal for the tapping of modular generator sets as an immediate measure for electric cooperatives in bridging supply gap for the next two years, he added.

“This latest directive manifests the strong commitment of President Aquino to resolve the Mindanao power situation, particularly in addressing the current supply shortfall until new power plants are on stream by 2015,” Montenegro said.