No link between bombing suspects and land owners – MinDA

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 Jan) – There is no direct link between the perpetrators behind the Christmas eve bombing of Tower 25 of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Lanao del Sur and the family who has unsettled claims with the government over this land, an official of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said on Monday.

Speaking in Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City, Romeo Montenegro, director for Investment Promotion, International Relations and Public Affairs, told reporters that it is not conclusive whether the owners who were recently identified by NGCP as Johnny Sambitori, Intan Sambitori, and Naguib Sambitori have hands in the incident, which resulted in the isolation of the Agus 1 and Agus 2 hydroelectric plants from the Mindanao grid.

He said Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. will convince the family to allow the NGCP personnel entry so that they can start the reconstruction works on the toppled tower and construction of emergency restoration tower (ERS) to temporarily connect Agus 1 and 2 to the grid.

Montenegro added he has no information yet how much is the Sambitoris’ unsettled claims with the National Power Corporation (Napocor), which was then in charge of generation and transmission of electricity, but it may go over millions of pesos.

He said Tower 25, located at Ditsaan-Ramain in Lanao del Sur, was built 60 years ago by Napocor.

In 2001, the year when Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) was passed into law, the grid operation was relegated to the newly created National Transmission Corporation (TransCo). When privatization came in 2007, the TransCo concession was awarded to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

Montenegro added they are yet to verify whether the land the Sambitori claimed as theirs has a title.

Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada, in an interview with reporters during the inauguration of Therma South Inc.’s (TSI) 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Binugao, Toril, this city, told reporters that they are still verifying whether some of the claimants, including the locations of the other NGCP towers in Mindanao, have been paid already for the right of way.

She said most claims have already been paid, but they are still looking for the records for those that have not been paid yet. “We still have to check if the claims are still valid, and as to how much, and if the amount is reasonable,” she said.

Monsada said that in the case of Tower 25, the Sambitoris refused NGCP personnel entry, demanding that they be paid first with their claims.

She added that the cost of repair works on damaged towers will be passed on to the consumers through the electricity bills.

Southern Mindanao, Monsada said, will not be that affected because of TSI’s operation.

In an interview with Milfrance Capulong, NGCP spokesperson for Mindanao, she said that 16 towers were bombed in 2015, of which nine were toppled and seven were damaged, in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City, and Maguindanao.

She said the rest of the towers, except for Tower 25, have been restored with the construction of emergency restoration structure (ERS), a temporary foundation made of steel that is propped up to deliver the power from the sources.

Other than Tower 25, Towers 19 and 20, Tower 95, Tower 68, Tower 168, and Tower 153 were all bombed in December. The latest was Tower 4, bombed on December 28 at Barangay Nangka in the municipality of Baloi, Lanao del Norte.

She said this was the worst in seven years since 2009, the year TransCo turned over the management and operation of nationwide transmission system to NGCP.

Montenegro added that Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had been tapped to secure the towers and the safety of the personnel conducting restoration works and construction of towers in Mindanao.

Unlike before when 100 percent of Mindanao’s power was derived from the Agus-Pulangui Hydropower Complex, he said that the island’s grid will not suffer from total blackout the towers are attacked because the grid now has various sources of power – coal, diesel, and renewable energy all across the island.

“If one tower will be damaged, there are alternate redundant connectivity points that can be tapped by the NGCP,” Montenegro said.

He said that new power plants have been built in areas with high demand for power.