Aquino urged to order load dispatch from geothermal plants due to NorthCot

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/04 September)—With long daily brownouts since August, a city councilor here has urged President Benigno Aquino III to order the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and the Lopez-led Energy Development Corp. (EDC) to provide North Cotabato 25 percent of the load dispatch from the geothermal power facility in Mt. Apo.

In a resolution, councilor Ruby Padilla-Sison stressed it is highly-ironic that the city is host to two geothermal power plants with a combined capacity of 100 megawatts (MW) yet residents suffer six to eight hours of daily brownouts.

North Cotabato has close to 100,000 power consumers.

The state-owned Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) previously operates the geothermal plants until the Arroyo administration sold it to the Lopez Group in 2008.

Sison said the brownouts have already resulted to hefty losses by small businesses, low productivity of public and private offices, and bleak prospects for commercial and industrial companies that are totally dependent on the supply of electricity.

The Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) is North Cotabato’s distribution utility.

Sison said there were efforts to claim the emergency load dispatch from the geothermal plants after the brownouts reared its ugly head but power executives and government offices “have kept passing the bucks with no one owning responsibility.”

“It is very ironic that the power generated from the Mount Apo geothermal plants passes by the roofs of our people and is transmitted to Cagayan, Iligan, Butuan, Davao, General Santos City and other places in Mindanao through the Mindanao grid, yet the city of Kidapawan is now suffering a heavy brownout day-to-day compared to other cities,” she said.

Before its inception in 1989, the geothermal project was vehemently opposed by local civil society organizations, church-based groups, environmentalists, indigenous peoples and other organizations.

Sison, former chair of Gabriela-North Cotabato, had joined the peoples’ movement in opposing the project from late 1980s until the early 1990s.

“We had long predicted that the PNOC will never deliver its promise of no-more-brownout for Kidapawan City and the service areas of Cotelco; that it can never sustain the multi-million royalty share it promised to give; and that it will never sustain the livelihood for the indigenous peoples… all these are happening now,” said Sison.

She cited that under Republic Act 7638 or the Department of Energy Act (DOE) of 1992, the host city is entitled to 25 percent of the emergency load dispatch from the energy source.

Sison also said that a memorandum of agreement signed between the provincial government and the PNOC in the early 1990s stipulates that a separate line should be dedicated to Kidapawan City to ensure steady supply of electricity from the geothermal plants.

She said copies of her resolution would be submitted to the Office of the President, DOE, House of Representatives, Napocor, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines and the EDC for their immediate action on North Cotabato’s demand for the load dispatch and a separate and embedded line for Cotelco. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)