KMP-North Cotabato Chair Noli Lapaz said the power resources controlled by private businesses would only add to the burden and hardships of small farmers and peasants in the province, adding that with the increasing power rates, “Prices of basic commodities will greatly affect farmers and peasants in the countryside.”
By ALEX D. LOPEZ
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines — More than a thousand peasants, lumads (indigenous peoples) and members of multi-sectoral groups staged a picket-rally and barricaded the road intersection leading to Mt. Apo geothermal plant as they scored the Aquino government for privatizing the country’s power utilities.
“There’s no energy crisis in Mindanao and the administration of Noynoy Aquino favors big corporations who are now controlling our power resources,” Noli Lapaz, Chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)-North Cotabato, said.
The Mt. Apo Geothermal Plant-Energy Development Corporation (EDC) — a power utility formerly owned and controlled by the government’s Philippine National Oil Company — is now owned and operated by the Lopez group of companies.
Protesters led by the political coalition Makabayan-North Cotabato prevented the entry of vehicles utilized by the employees and workers of EDC in a nearly three-hour picket, in the morning of May 24, this city.
Between 5:00 to 7:00 AM, two buses chartered by EDC to transport their employees attempted for two times to enter the intersection leading to the geothermal site at crossing old PC barracks. But they failed as protesters formed a human barricade. The local police tried to convince protest leaders to allow the EDC buses to pass through but to no avail.
However, by 8:00 AM, Makabayan protesters voluntarily left the area and marched towards the NDKC (Notre Dame Kidapawan City) gym for the “Peoples’ Power Talk” forum where the energy crisis in Mindanao was discussed particularly its root causes.
Present were Nestor Deboma, an engineer and former employee of the National Power Corporation in Iligan City; Rodolfo Cabiles, the board president of Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco); and Jose Tejada, board member representing North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza.
“The rural electrification program has not yet covered the entire barangays due to lack of funds. How much more when power resources are already privatized? Can the government still supply electricity to the far-flung barangays?” Lapaz said.
The peasant leader said the power resources controlled by private businesses would only add to the burden and hardships of small farmers and peasants in the province, adding that with the increasing power rates, “Prices of basic commodities will greatly affect farmers and peasants in the countryside.”
Joel Virador, former Bayan Muna representative, criticized the continued privatization of the remaining power resources in the country during the forum.
While power has returned in selected North Cotabato municipalities, Makabayan, in a released statement, said it’s no reason for the people to celebrate.
Makabayan said the recent move of Cotelco to buy an additional 8 MW (megawatts) power supply from Therma Marine Incorporated (TMI) only showed that the province has no “preferential priority” of the 25 percent emergency load dispatch as mandated by law.
North Cotabato province which hosts geothermal plants should automatically be dispatched with 25 percent of power load. The TMI is owned by the Aboitizes.
Ruby Padilla-Sison, secretary-general of Makabayan-North Cotabato, said their move was an expression of people’s frustration over the Aquino Administration’s policies on privatization. She called on the government to junk the Epira law and nationalize the country’s energy resources.
Padilla shared the EDC wanted another well in Mt. Apo but the energy it will generate will not benefit the people of the province. “The energy is intended to supply the so-called ‘suppressed demands’ of private and foreign businesses such as the mining corporations in Mindanao.”
Meanwhile, Norma Capuyan, Chair of Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato denounced the projected additional well for Mt. Apo geothermal plant saying it’s the same with the proposed Pulangi V megadam that is “anti-people and designed to serve foreign and business interests.”
Capuyan said more than 3,000 hectares of ancestral lands will be totally submerged in the boundaries of President Roxas in North Cotabato and the province of Bukidnon once the megadam project is materialized. She added, the megadam will dislocate thousands of peasants and lumads in the area. (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)Poverty, World