Press Release
March 24, 2012

To solve Mindanao's power crisis

Saying the acute power shortage in Mindanao could be contrived, Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III today called for "immediate intervention" by the national government and warned the worsening problem could lead to widespread disastrous consequences.

At the same time, Pimentel said the Senate must conduct a full-dress inquiry into the island-wide crisis amid conflicting reasons cited by government energy officials as to its main causes.

"The situation has worsened. With the onset of summer, Mindanao is faced with the grim prospect of longer outages of up to eight hours a day. Business is suffering badly and the residents are becoming impatient over the government's slow response," said Pimentel.

He said that Cagayan de Oro City, where he hails, has experienced recurring power outages.

Pimentel supported calls for the officials of the NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) and the DOE (Department of Energy) to explain in a full-dress Senate inquiry the main causes of the outages and why the government's apparent failure to anticipate the problem.

He said although Mindanao's power outages have been recurring, the lack of permanent measures by government energy planners to raise and stabilize supply has made it worse, driving away potential investors and affecting its improving tourism industry despite the island's vast potentials.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, which has drawn heavy criticism for the acute power outages, has repeatedly blamed the shortages on the "lack of supply generated by power plants".

But the Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) has accused the NGCP of creating "an artificial power shortage".

Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) chair, former General Santos City Rep. Luwalhati Antonino has aired the accusation, saying the NGCP wants the government to privatize the Augus-Pulangi hydro power plants that would supply half of the island's power demand. The hydro power plants are due for major rehabilitation to generate additional capacity.

Pimentel said he would look deeply into the allegations of the Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) chairman.

DOE officials, however, are singing a different tune. They said the acute power shortage could be traced to the electric cooperatives' refusal to contract and purchase the necessary capacities in their areas, resulting in massive daily power interruptions across Mindanao.

Pimentel said the economic costs of the prolonged power outages are incalculable, badly affecting trade, commerce and investments in Mindanao as well as its tourism industry that is beginning to perk up with increased arrivals of both local and international guests.

He said the power outages could also affect the delicate peace problem in Mindanao, where a long-running communist insurgency and a Muslim secessionist movement continue to create island-wide instability.

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