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Which way to go, Mindanao ECs?

/ 10:21 PM April 01, 2013

The power crisis is back in Mindanao, with the specter of higher power rates haunting its people. This is happening because of the glaring failure of the electric cooperatives (ECs) to comply with DOE Circular No. 2003-12-011, titled “Enjoining All Distribution Utilities To Supply Adequate, Affordable, Quality and Reliable Electricity” which was issued pursuant to Section 2 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira). Their failure is made worse in light of the number of years given them from the time the circular was issued in December 2003.

Anticipating the ever-growing electricity demand that, if not addressed, could result in power outages and crisis, the circular presented a number of options to the ECs, among them: entering into bilateral contracts with power companies or putting up their own power plants. Had they done any of the options three or four years ago, this power crisis would have been averted.

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We also would like to call attention to the glaring failure of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to exercise its awesome powers (vested upon the agency by Presidential Decree 269, as amended by Presidential Decree 1645) over these ECs in ensuring compliance with the circular—thus, this power crisis.

This failure will put any well-meaning energy secretary, whose department is mandated by the Epira to “ensure the reliability, quality and security of the supply of electricity,” in a very demanding situation where he is left with no choice but to offer immediate stop-gap solutions that, understandably, will not be convenient to the hostaged consumers. The secretary is also left with no choice but to be the concurrent NEA chair as the law provides.

Thus, newly appointed Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla is forced to provide solutions that will make up for the failure of the 40-year-old NEA and the 30-year-old Mindanao ECs.

Instead of resorting to finger-pointing, Petilla has presented the ECs another option. Reports say, he has offered modular 0.5- to 1-megawatt-capacity diesel-generation sets that can immediately be put in place through a $200-million loan facility to be made available to the Mindanao ECs via the NEA. This stop-gap solution (for two years at least) is presumably the best under the prevailing circumstances.

Should this solution be adopted, Petilla assured that come 2015, adequate, affordable, quality and reliable power supply will be available to the people of Mindanao from additional new base-load gensets, and so there will be no need for diesel gensets.

But the big question is: Will the ECs accept this solution?

If only the ECs are converted to become genuine cooperatives—meaning, they’re truly owned and controlled by their member-consumers—a power crisis will be a thing of the past.

—PETE L. ILAGAN,

president,

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National Association of Electricity

Consumers for Reforms Inc.,

[email protected]

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TAGS: Electricity, Mindanao, power crisis
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