DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Mindanao consumers, business and political leaders, expressed disgust and disappointment over President Aquino’s response to the power crisis in Mindanao and then blamed the privatization of the country’s power assets as the root cause of their woes.
“If government did not sell the power barges to Therma Marine Inc., there would have been no shortage of power in Mindanao right now,” said Dr. Melchie Ambalong, chairperson of the Mindanao Commission on Women.
Ambalong pointed out that the power barges, which used to serve as the “spare tire” of the Pulangi hydropower plants, could have supplied some 200 megawatts of electricity, which would cover the current power shortage.
She said that despite a provision in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, which has allowed the Power Sector Asset and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) to allocate some amount to rehabilitate the Agus and Pulangi hydropower complex, the government only allowed the hydropower plants to deteriorate, which reduced its installed capacity by 254 megawatts.
Ambalong said that it appeared that the government allowed the plants to deteriorate to allow the sale of the facilities at dirt cheap prices.
Ricardo Juliano, vice president for Mindanao of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said that for Mindanao to continue to maintain its competitive power rates in the country, the government should continue to adopt and implement a hydro-based energy mix, with fossil fuel plants only as disposable and ancillary reserve system. This, he said, has been successfully done in Brazil, which has one of the lowest and competitive power prices in the world.
“It has been the practice of the business sector to rehabilitate the facility before its sale so that it can fetch a higher price,” Mindanao Business Council chair Vicente Lao said in a separate presentation.
Davao City Councilor Leah Librado said the recently concluded summit served merely as “theatrics,” to make it appear that Mindanao people were heard, but the government would push through with the bidding of the remaining power barges on April 16, three days after the summit.