2 Mindanao solons hit Energy czar’s approach to power crisis

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews/09 May)—Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla and top government officials met with Mindanao congressional leaders last Wednesday, but they “did not offer any solution” to the power crisis crippling the island with the daily brownouts lasting six to 12 hours in some parts, Mindanawon lawmakers said.

Petilla, who came with top officials of the National Power Corp. and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), was instead pushing for the adoption of the Interim Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM) as the solution to end the Mindanao power crisis.

The House Committee on Energy had already recommended the suspension of the IMEM following objections from Mindanao’s power distributors and consumers during a public hearing in Cagayan de Oro on March 4, 2014.

“Petilla did not offer any solution. He was asking us to give IMEM another chance,” said Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, representative of the city’s second district.

“Petilla did not go there to offer a solution. Instead he pushed for the IMEM and for the co-ops to buy the expensive modular generating sets,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also said.

The meeting, sponsored by the House Committee on Energy, was held not in Mindanao but in the posh Sulu Hotel in Quezon City last Wednesday.

Petilla reiterated the government’s proposal to adopt again the IMEM, which was already rejected by Mindanao electric cooperatives and consumer groups.

Rodriguez said they have reminded Petilla about the House resolution rejecting the IMEM but he persisted, asking to meet again the leaders of Mindanao electric cooperatives in Manila next Wednesday.

“Petilla did not even give us any update on the current Mindanao power situation,” Zarate said.

Rodriguez said the Mindanao congressmen were the ones who offered solutions to end the power crisis, adding Petilla was only bent on pushing for the revival of IMEM.

The three solutions they offered were to fast-track the procurement of modular generator sets, for the Energy Regulatory Commission to issue immediately the uniform rates for the electricity produced by the modular generators, and the use of a power barge in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte.

Rodriguez said the 25-megawatt power barge is floating idly in Nasipit town.

He said the barge was among the three small barges privatized by PSALM under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

“If the government is serious, they can even bring the other two barges moored in Visayas to Mindanao,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said funds from the Malampaya project could be used to pay the private owners of the barges.

“The Malampaya funds can also be used to dredge and rehabilitate the Agus and Pulangi hydro plants instead of selling them,” Rodriguez said.

Zarate said the administration of President Benigno Aquino III has been urging Mindanao cooperatives to buy the modular generators, which will be funded by the Malampaya funds, as a solution to the Mindanao power crisis.

“Electricity produced by modular generating sets is very expensive. Many consumers will be surprised how high their electricity [bills would be] if the sets are used,” Zarate said.

The Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperative has been urging the DOE to relax its regulations on the use of modular sets.

The Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative, which has already bought a modular generating set, is enjoying a brownout-free environment while the rest of Mindanao is reeling from lack of power supply.

Electric cooperatives that have no modular sets, like the Misamis Oriental Rural Electric Service Cooperative (MORESCO) 1, are experiencing at least a six-hour daily brownout. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)