North Cotabato residents gripe over daily brownouts, as governor slams fake power shortage
“The power outages are but a way of conditioning the minds of consumers that there is a power crisis,” says North Cotabato Governor Taliño-Mendoza, adding that such conditioning has something to do with the privatization of the remaining government-owned power utilities in Mindanao.
By ALEX D. LOPEZ
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines — The province may be resource-rich for power generation but consumers here complain of crippling daily brown-outs. The irony is not lost even to North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, who said the power shortage is artificial and meant to pave the way for the full privatization of remaining power utilities in Mindanao.
Via short message service (SMS) sent to local radio stations here, residents expressed their grievances over the two to three hour outages saying home appliances have been damaged while interrupted business transactions have resulted to income loss.
Since January, the Cotabato Electric Cooperative’s (Cotelco) area of coverage — with 17 towns and one city — suffers daily scheduled brownouts, one in the afternoon and another in the evening. The situation worsened this month.
North Cotabato consumes about 22 megawatts (MW) of power. But in January, there was a reduction of at least 30 percent from the total power load of Cotelco. The reduction was said to be because of the insufficient supply from the Mindanao grid.
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) maintained the current power curtailment in Mindanao is due to the acute shortage of power.
Governor Taliño-Mendoza, in an interview with Sandigan program in a local radio station here, said the power crisis claimed by the NGCP is artificial, because Mindanao has power reserves that could be tapped to supply the required power gaps during peak hours.
The province of North Cotabato hosts one of the main sources of power in Mindanao, the geothermal plant in Mt. Apo which is owned and operated by the Lopezes.
Governor Taliño-Mendoza’s view is shared by Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, chairwoman of Mindanao Development Authority.
Both Mindanao leaders said the Agus 2 hydroelectric plant in Lanao del Sur alone has the capacity of producing 180 MW of power but only 90 MW is being tapped for transmission while the Pulangi IV hydroelectric plant in Bukidnon can generate up to 255 MW but only 200 MW is being utilized.
The Agus River generates 70 percent of Mindanao’s electricity. Agus 1 hydroelectric plant is located in Lanao del Sur and has an 80 MW-capacity. Agus 4 hydroelectric plant is in Lanao del Norte and has 158.1 MW-capacity. Agus 5 to 7 hydroelectric plants are located in Iligan City with a total capacity of 309 MW. These large hydroelectric plants are owned by the National Power Corporation (Napocor).
“The power outages are but a way of conditioning the minds of consumers that there is a power crisis,” Governor Taliño-Mendoza said during the interview, adding that such conditioning has something to do with the privatization of the remaining government-owned power utilities in Mindanao.
Last March 13, both leaders attended the hearing called by the House Committee on Energy to look deeper into the present power crisis in Mindanao. The governor said among the measures they presented includes the amendments on certain provisions of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Epira law which she claimed, is “no longer applicable to the current power situation in Mindanao.”
Epira provides the legal framework for the privatization of Napocor and the deregulation of the country’s power industry.
The present power crisis in the province and the rest of Mindanao has alarmed consumers and business establishments. Some even conveyed their disgust over Malacañang for seemingly being clueless in finding real solution to end the crisis. (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)