Mindanao power crisis ‘artificial’ – Pimentel

David Yu Santos
Insists Senate should hold inquiry before Holy Week break due to 'urgency' of the matter

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III

MANILA, Philippines – Just days after Malacañang assured that the government is taking measures to avert another looming energy crisis in Mindanao, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III on Sunday (March 25) called on his colleagues to immediately conduct an inquiry amid suspicions that the power shortage in the region could be fabricated.

Speaking to GMA News TV’s noontime newscast on Sunday, Pimentel insisted that the Senate Committee on Energy chaired by Sen. Serge Osmeña to probe into the emergency situation besetting residents of Mindanao due to lack of power supply.

Sen. Chiz Escudero made a similar appeal to Osmeña through a recent public statement.

“If I need to personally to beg to Sen Osmeña to hold the inquiry before the Holy Week break, I will have to,” Pimentel said. “This is an emergency situation since it is affecting the daily lives of (thousands) of Mindanaons, as well as the region’s business climate.”

Pimentel, who is a native of Cagayan de Oro City, justified the “urgent need” to convene the energy committee to discuss the power problem besetting Mindanao pointing out that Senate plenary has “authorized” the conduct of hearings even if Congress has declared a 6-week break beginning last March March 23.

Both Pimentel and Escudero have cast doubts on the actual reasons behind the widespred power interruptions that have been gripping Mindanao for the past several weeks.

“I am just wondering why the demand has surpassed the supply of electricity. Is there a sudden influx of new investments in Mindanao why there seem to also be a surge in consumption of power?” Pimentel said.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which has been blamed for the daily power outages, said power supply in Mindanao was acutely short due to “lack of power supply generated by plants.”

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairman Luwalhati Antonino has accused the NGCP of creating an “artificial shortage” in its bid to have the Angus-Pulangi Power Plant privatized.

Pimentel said he is inclined to believe MinDA’s explanation thatt “some entity” is trying “to manipulate the situation” in a bid “to get something out of this artificially-created crisis.”

“Just because this is not happening in the metropolis does not mean this problem is not important. 1/4 of our population lives in Mindanao. Immediate intervention must be given to this persisting problem given the already volatile peace problem in Mindanao,” Escudero said in his March 20 statement.

Escudero added the security problem is some parts of Mindanao could worsen if the power crisis is not averted since it will consequently result to the pullout of investors and closure of many businesses in the region.

Osmeña has yet to answer the pronouncements made by Pimentel and Escudero but in a separate statement issued last March 23, placed the blame on Mindanao congressmen “who pushed for a 10 year exemption from the privatization program of the National Power Corporation (NPC)-owned plants in Mindanao, notably the Agus-Pulangui hydropower complex which at that time supplied about 75% of the power needs of Mindanao at the lowest rate.”

Osmeña, who also who also co-chairs the Joint Congressional Power Commission which is tasked with oversight responsibilities on the implementation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, said the decision of the bicameral committee then to postpone the construction of the transmission line interconnection between Leyte and Surigao” worsened the situation.

The senator from Cebu admitted regretting his decision acceding to the “well-meaning” requests of the Mindanao solons since he may be “blamed indirectly for the power shortage that is npw causing economic and social hardships to the residents of Mindanao.”

Aside from shedding light into the causes of the pending power crisis, Pimentel said the conduct of an immediate Senate hearing should have divert government funding from least priority projects, to infrastructure that should help ease the power shortage in Mindanao. – Rappler.com  

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