New Davao biz chamber prexy says Mindanao should resolve power woes to sustain growth

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Feb) – The new president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Inc. (DCCCII) said on Tuesday that Mindanao has to improve its power supply to sustain the growth of the businesses and attract new investors.

During Tuesday’s business forum at the Dermpath in SM City, DCCCII president Bonifacio T. Tan said that the business sector has been bogged by the lack of power and attacks on transmission facilities in the island.

He said that officials from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, Department of Energy, and Mindanao Development Authority were invited to a meeting Thursday last week where DCCCII members expressed their concerns regarding how the power situation has affected the businesses here.

One of the concerns aired by the chamber to NGCP was the duration before the grid operator takes to construct the permanent structure of a bombed tower. Another was their disapproval of the proposed Mindanao-Visayas Grid interconnectivity that allows the selling of excess power through an electricity market, Tan added.

NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said that it usually takes them one year to assess before they construct a permanent structure but there would be an emergency restoration structure (ERS) to deliver the electricity from the source to the distribution utilities.

The power situation in Mindanao was made worse because of the recent bombings of NGCP towers that prompted the government to form a special Inter-Agency Task Force for the Security of Energy Facilities, a body that will report to President Benigno Aquino III weekly on “the transmission lines of the Agus-Pulangui hydropower complex, security, legal issues, and information campaign.”

It is composed of the DOE, National Transmission Corp., NGCP, Mindanao Development Authority, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Power Corporation, Department of Justice, and Land Registration Authority.

Mindanao Business Council chair Vicente Lao said that it is hard to gauge the extent of losses incurred by the power problem on the businesses most especially because power outages are happening island-wide.

She said the major concerns of the power transmission at present are the issues on unpaid claimants who own vegetation in areas where towers are built on, and the bombings of the NGCP towers.

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 NGCP.

Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada said that there are several reported claimants in Mindanao but they must show documents as proof of their ownership.

“Before you claim, you have to have documentation that you own it as proof. There are so many areas of concern but the major one is the Tower 25,” she said, referring to the toppled transmission tower in Lanao del Sur whose owners refused NGCP personnel’s entry to do repairs because of alleged unpaid claims.

Monsada added that power generation is not so much of a problem in the grid but what worries them more is the transmission after a series of attacks on the NGCP towers and right-of-way (ROW) that they see this now as national interest.

“Mindanao used to be on red alert. After new plants came in, it became normal. We’re seeing problems on the transmission. It’s national interest. Mindanao is a major part of the country that contributes to the growth of the country, so there should be power to fuel the development,” she said.

Monsada appealed to the public to cooperate with the government to resolve transmission issues because Mindanao is supposed to have lesser to no brownouts with the entry of new power plants such as the 300 MW coal plant of the Therma South Inc. (TSI), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Aboitiz Power.

“The plants (Agus 1 and Agus 2) cannot supply electricity to the grid. The line would have an impact on the transmission charges,” she said.

Last year, 16 towers were bombed, of which nine were toppled in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City, and Maguindanao.

In January 2016, Tower 63 and Tower 50 were bombed by unidentified groups.

For the toppled towers, the NGCP constructed an emergency restoration structure (ERS), a temporary foundation made of steel that is propped up to deliver power from the sources.

TransCo president and chief-operating-officer (CEO) Generoso Senal said there have been 216 pending and resolved cases of ownership claims in court in Mindanao. Around 50 were resolved, he said.

TransCo released about P195 million as escrow payments to the claimants and court filing fees, according to Senal.