Friday, March 19, 2010

Groups oppose Agus-Pulangui proposed sale

PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 19, 2010) - Two groups have strongly opposed the proposed sale of 6 Agus-Pulangi hydro-power plants in Lanao region to the private sector, saying it will further drive the prices of electricity.

In a joint letter to the Sangguniang Panglungsod, the Freedom from Debt Coalition-Western Mindanao and the Consumer's Alliance of Pagadian City have asked the city council to pass a resolution exempting from privatization the National Power Corporation's generation assets in Mindanao.

“For the past ten years since the passage of EPIRA we have witnessed a series of rates increase as a consequence of privatization,” it said.

Diosdado Marquez, FDC chairperson, sought audience with the city council members here recently for the proposed resolution.

The two hydro-power plants

There are six hydro plants along the Agus River, which gets its water from Lake Lanao in Marawi City, emptying it to Iligan Bay, some 36 kilometers away, generating a total of 727 megawatts.

Pulangi's - in Bukidnon province - lone plant generates 255mw. Combined, the hydro plants in the two river systems reportedly supply 70 percent of Mindanao's electricity needs.

The EPIRA law

Republic Act 9136 of 2001 (the EPIRA) has provided for the sale of the Agus/Pulangui hydro complexes by next year.

According to Chapter V of the EPIRA, Sec 47 (f), “The Agus and the Pulangui complexes in Mindanao shall be excluded from among the generation companies that will be initially privatized.

But EPIRA provided that the two may be privatized not earlier than 10 years from the effectivity of the law.

The law says the privatization of the two power plants will be left to the discretion of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp., in consultation with Congress.

He cited that after Napocor was privatized, the Philippines has become next only to Japan with the highest power rates in Asia.

The reasons of the opposition

Power consumers in neighboring Lanao del Norte province expressed vehement opposition to the privatization last year when the Lanao Power Consumers Federation (LAPOCOF) appeared at the City Council of Iligan to register their stand.

The group was composed of several sectoral, religious, concerned individuals of Iligan City and the two Lanao provinces who are opposed to the privatization of the hydro power complexes.

Among the arguments raised by LAPOCOF is that in privatization, the assets have to become attractive with high electricity rates.

“The higher the winning bidder bids, the higher the electricity price we have to pay in the future so the winning bidder can recover its investment,” says a position of the group as posted in reporter Violeta Gloria's blog site. (Becky de Asis)

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