6-hour brownouts loom in North Cotabato

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/7 April) – Power consumers in North Cotabato will have to brace for brownouts lasting six hours, or even longer, starting next week.

Vicente Baguio, spokesperson of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco), attributed the load curtailment to the decreasing water levels at the hydroelectric power plants in Agus and Pulangi complexes due to the dry season.

The power shortfall in Mindanao has also worsened after a geothermal power plant of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) in Mount Apo underwent preventive maintenance, he said.

Cotelco is only getting nine megawatts (MW) from the National Power Corporation and eight MW from the Aboitiz Power’s Therma Marine Inc.

Baguio said this makes up only 53 percent of Cotelco’s total requirement of 32 MW for its consumers.

Vicky Guboc, owner of VCG School Supplies here, said the longer load curtailment will surely affect her business.

“Paano na lang ang aming mga financial obligation kung magpapatuloy ang ganito? Paano kami makakabawi,” (How about our financial obligation if it will go on like this? How can be recoup our investment) she lamented.

Priority load dispatch

The impending power shortage has again led traders and consumers to ask about the status of their demand for the 25-percent priority load dispatch from the EDC’s geothermal power plants.

John Pagaduan, a dealer of computer products, said it was high time for the Department of Energy (DoE) to resolve the issue. He also challenged local officials to show political will in dealing with the issue.

Pagaduan said the city deserves the load dispatch for hosting two geothermal power plants.

“Ano nga ba ang silbi ng geothermal power plants sa Mount Apo kung hindi naman natin napakikinabangan?” (What’s the use of the geothermal power plants in Mount Apo if we could not benefit from it?) he said.

The city government, through then vice mayor now Mayor Joseph Evangelista, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in 2012 at the DoE, which was asked to order the EDC to supply Kidapawan and the rest of North Cotabato with at least 25 percent of load dispatched by the geothermal power plants.

Evangelista used as basis the memorandum order signed in the 1990s between the Cotabato provincial government and the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) which entitles the host city and province to a load dispatch of 25 percent in times of energy crisis.

PNOC, a state-owned firm started the Mount Apo geothermal project in 1992. EDC, which was founded under the PNOC but later became a private corporation, eventually took over the project.

Evanglista also cited some laws, including the one creating the DoE, in the case he filed in 2012.

The DoE, however, has yet to act on the case.

“We are still waiting for the immediate action of the DoE. It seems, however, there is no action from the agency. This is why we’re again preparing legal actions against the DoE to expedite our petition.

“The DoE is just buying time. This is because [by the] middle of 2014 Mindanao will have enough power supply. But we’ve waited for too long,” said Evangelista. (MindaNews)