MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is set to send additional power barges to Mindanao in the face of a looming energy crisis in the region, with President Benigno Aquino III giving assurances the government is working on several measures to address the problem.
The President met with Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras to discuss the Mindanao power shortage, along with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr and Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda. The meeting on Friday, March 23, was also opened to the media.
Officials of the Department of Energy warned in mid-February that Mindanao will experience longer power interruptions with the summer months threatening to reduce levels at water systems that keep hydroelectric power plants running.
Early this month, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) formed the Special Committee for Mindanao Power, mandating it to come up with recommendations that would address the region’s energy problems, particularly its limited generating capacity and dependency on hydropower.
Currently, there are 2 power barges that can operate to augment the energy needs of Mindanao, but the President said nobody has signed contracts to buy electricity.
To entice power distributors to buy electricity from power-producing barges, the President said there must be an arrangement for the equitable sharing of the burden in buying more expensive energy.
There are also 5 other power-producing barges that can supply power in Mindanao in 2012 to 2013, aside from the construction of base plants which will take around 3 years to build to address the power problem, the chief executive added.
The energy department said however that construction of said hydropower plants may not be viable in the long term because of the changing rainfall pattern in Mindanao that might affect operations.
Almendras said the focus now is to support building more coal-powered plants that can produced cheaper energy compared to solar or diesel-powered barges.
Lighting more areas
Solving the energy needs of Mindanao is necessary because of government’s plan to provide electricity to 36,000 sitios in the country, which President Aquino highlighted in a recent speech delivered before graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) last March 18.
Also, the President said he has approved a P7-B reforestation fund to enhance the remaining watershed areas in the country for the sustainable operation of hydropower plants.
The money will ensure that communities near watershed areas and forests will be able to plant more trees for long-term benefits. – Rappler.com