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2 gov’t officials clash over Mindanao power crisis, power plants privatization


03:50 PM May 10th, 2012

By: Germelina Lacorte, May 10th, 2012 03:50 PM

SECRETARY Luwalhati Antonino of the Mindanao Development Authority

DAVAO CITY—The reported power crisis in Mindanao and the issue of privatization of two government-run hydro-power facilities have pitted two government officials against each other.
The privatization of the Agus power plant in Lanao and the Pulangui power plant in Bukidnon was being tied to the alleged government losses in operating them and the need to privatize them to resolve the power crisis.
But President Benigno Aquino III’s secretary for Mindanao Luwalhati Antonino dismissed the claim of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (Psalm) Corp. that the government was losing from the operation of the hydropower plants.
Psalm president Emmanuel Ledesma, Jr. had said the government lost up to P15 billion between 2001 and 2011 from its operation of the two hydroplants—which provide 55 percent of Mindanao’s power needs.
But Antonino, armed with copies of financial statements of Psalm and the National Power Corp. (Napocor), said on the contrary, the hydropower facilities earned P68 billion, or an annual average of P6 billion, during the same period.
“It’s not pure allegations that Agus and Pulangui are net income earners. These were backed by financial records of Napocor and Psalm,” Antonino told reporters here Wednesday.
The problem, she said, was that whatever net income the hydropower facilities generated during the said period, it went to other ‘losing’ government power assets in Mindanao.
She said the net loss posted by these other facilities—including diesel-fired plants—reached P83 billion over the 10-year period, resulting in an overall loss of P15.03 billion for government power assets in Mindanao.
“Psalm failed to state that the P15.03 billion was not an actual loss,” Antonino said.
She also questioned an item on the amortization for the 210 megawatt coal-fired power plant operated by Steag AG in Misamis Oriental amounting to P5.679 billion, which should not have been computed as part of losses.
She said the amount represented capital lease amounting to P1.089 billion a year from 2007 to 2032, when the coal plant built under the build-operate scheme shall have been turned over to the government.
Antonino said that instead of Agus and Pulangui, the government should privatize the losing assets, which had caused the hydroplants “severe financial bleeding.”
“If Psalm used up every centavo earned by Agus and Pulangui to subsidize these losing Napocor assets, then it should have not allowed the hydro plants to deteriorate,” Antonino said.
“If it had allocated for rehabilitation and repair a portion of the hydropower plants’ internally generated earnings, the plants could have been generating power at rated capacities, instead of just 65 per cent,” she added.
More importantly, Antonino said “there would have been no supply deficits or rotating brownouts but reliable power and increased income for the Agus-Pulangui complexes.” “Psalm’s statement cunningly presented half-truths by stressing only about losses, but not about how Agus and Pulangui saved billions of government money,” Antonino said.
Meanwhile, militant groups are spearheading their own version of the Mindanao Power summit here on Friday.
Manjette Lopez, acting president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), said the consumers’ summit is in response to the government-initiated Mindanao power summit in April, which she said, had “failed to reflect the views of those most affected.”
“The voice of those who actually shoulder the burden of the power crisis was not heard during last month’s Mindanao Power Summit attended by President Aquino and other stakeholders that’s why electric-power consumers in Mindanao are holding their own gathering this Friday,” Lopez said.

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