P1.5-B submarine cable won’t solve Samal Island’s power woes, says consumers group

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 March) – The P1.5-billion submarine cable project that will link up the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) to a grid in Pantukan, Davao de Oro will not alleviate the power situation in the island, a consumers organization in Davao Region said.

In a statement on Thursday, Davao Consumer Movement co-convenor Ryan Amper said that contrary to claims by the Northern Davao Electric Cooperative (Nordeco) a submarine cable won’t solve the power supply problem of Samal Island, considered a prime tourism destination of Davao.

Amper added the project has yet to secure approval from government regulatory agencies, particularly from the Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as from the local governments of Pantukan and Igacos.

He said the electric cooperative has not yet complied with the requirement of the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate since the project “will have an impact on the environment.”

He said Nordeco should have prioritized fixing the existing submarine cable that was destroyed on Christmas Day last year, which would only cost the electric cooperative around P10 million.

He said this would provide an immediate solution to the power woes experienced by consumers on the island.

He said the group suggested building a cable system under the Samal Island-Davao City Connector bridge that would cost Nordeco about P200 million, which is cheaper compared to the plan of constructing a 25-kilometer submarine cable system from Igacos to Pantukan.

In a statement, Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib said he is supporting the Tagum Chamber of Commerce and the Davao Consumer Movement “in their protest against the high power rates and poor services of Nordeco.”

He said the exorbitant power rates and poor services of Nordeco bear negative impact on the tourism industry, particularly in Tagum City and Igacos.

Excursionists disembark at Babak District in Samal Island, Davao del Norte. MindaNews file photo

He said the availability of reliable and affordable power services is critical to ensure the comfort and safety of visitors.

He said tourism is a significant contributor to the local economy, but tourism-related businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and resorts in Tagum and Igacos “are facing increasing operational costs, which can result in higher prices for tourists” amid the higher power rates.

“Small businesses and industries that rely on electricity for their operations have been struggling due to the high power rates imposed by Nordeco. This puts them at a disadvantage compared to their competitors in other areas, which can lead to a negative impact on our local economy,” he added.

Jubahib said “households in our province also suffer from the consequences of the poor services of Nordeco.”

“With the increasing power rates, many families struggle to pay their bills and make difficult decisions on allocating their limited resources,” he said.

He said House Bill 5077 of Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon D. Alvarez, HB 6740 of Rep. Margarita Ignacia B. Nograles of PBA Partylist, and HB 7047 of Rep. Sandro L. Gonzales of Marino Partylist seek to expand the franchise of the Aboitiz-owned Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC).

“With this, I urge the public to join us in supporting these bills and advocating for fair and affordable power rates and high-quality services for all,” he said.

These bills were filed after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vetoed HB 10554, which sought to amend Republic Act 11515, extending for another 25 years the franchise granted to DLPC.

HB 10554 would have placed Tagum, Igacos, and the towns of Asuncion, Kapalong, New Corella, San Isidro, and Talaingod in Davao del Norte under the franchise area of DLPC.

These areas are being serviced by Nordeco, which has an existing franchise for mainland Davao del Norte until 2028 and Samal until 2033. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)