After his head-on collision with Mindanao governors, business leaders and civil society organizations in last Friday’s Mindanao Power Summit in Davao City, President Benigno Aquino III backpedaled a bit.
Perhaps realizing the folly of pushing for the privatization of Mindanao’s main power generating plants, the Agus and Pulangi hydropower complexes and inviting dirty and expensive coal and diesel power plants, the President softened last Monday and said he was willing to have a dialogue on the issue.
This is baffling. Wasn’t Friday’s summit the venue for that dialogue? The President took the rostrum and declared lock, stock and barrel the full implementation of the privatization of government-owned power generation assets as mandated by the Energy and Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).
The President declared what everyone feared: “The era of cheap electricity in Mindanao is at an end.”
When asked about growing opposition to the Agus-Pulangi privatization and that a manifesto was coming his way to wake him up to realities down south, the President was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday as saying: “I will read it. But when I was there (in Mindanao), when I saw several governors, none of them told me that.”
This may be true, Mindanao governors he met may have found it redundant to tell him their stand. The power problems of Mindanao weren’t born yesterday.
The President who won the May 2010 elections on slogans of “daang matuwid” and “kung walang kurap, walang mahirap” should understand why Mindanaoans are aghast at plans to privatize the government’s power generation assets.
Mindanao suffered four- to six-hour daily power outages in the first half of 2010. Consumers cried out over power rate increases of as much as 80 centavos per kilowatt hour.
The reason for the spike was the privatization of the National Power Corp. Power Barges 117 in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte and 118 in Maco, Compostela Valley.
Two diesel-fed baseload plants with a combined capacity of 200 megawatts (mw) were sold by Napocor to the Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. in the waning years of the Arroyo administration in 2009.
In a privilege speech two years ago, Abante Mindanao party list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez said Therma Marine earned about P3 billion in profit while the island was in darkness in 2010.
Cebu Rep. Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) party-list blames the Mindanao crises on a power cartel of six families: Aboitiz, Lopez, Pangilinan, Ang and Cojuangco, Alcantara and Sy.
Instead of listening only to the peddlers of the Agus-Pulangi privatization scheme, P-Noy should have studied other sources of energy for the island-home of about 25 million Filipinos.
These projects could have been enough to fuel solid economic growth there in the next five to 10 years.
Sadly, aside from giving away the hydro plants to the power cartel, P-Noy is keen on contracting 800 mw of expensive coal and diesel-fed power plants.
Bad policy is the real crisis here.