Mindanao body pushing state-run power facility

Posted on May 24, 2012

KORONADAL -- The need to maintain the environment-dependent cheap power in Mindanao is boosting the cause to set up a new state-owed power company run by locals that will manage and operate hydroelectric power plants, an official said.

Luwalhati R. Antonino, chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said the proposed Mindanao Power Corp. (MPC) is seen to allocate P200 million annually to restore watersheds in the island.

The reliability of hydropower plants in Mindanao, which supply more than half of the island’s power requirements, had been affected by the critical condition of the watersheds, aside from the reduced physical performance of the hydropower plants, she said.

"The watershed condition in Mindanao is very alarming. The island-region’s forest cover now only stands at 21%," Ms. Antonino said in a statement on Tuesday.

Insufficient power supply reportedly due to generation deficiency has beset parts of Mindanao in the past few months and is projected to linger in the coming years unless new power plants come on stream to meet growing demand.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, the private operator of the country’s power transmission network, yesterday put the supply deficiency in Mindanao at 343 megawatts (MW), or a system capacity of 910 MW against a peak demand of 1,253 MW.

To address the island’s power woe, MinDA pushed the creation of MPC as a government-owned and -controlled corporation that will oversee the operations of the Agus and Pulangui hydropower plants.

Once realized, the MPC is seen to allocate P200 million per year for the restoration and management of Mindanao’s watersheds, especially in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon where the Agus and Pulangui hydropower plants are located, Ms. Antonino said.

"The Agus and Pulangui hydro plants are our [Mindanao] crown jewels," she said, adding that Mindanao’s relatively cheaper power makes it more advantageous for investors to locate in the region.

She said it is best for the Agus and Pulangui hydropower plants to be run by Mindanaoans, under the proposed government-owned power company.

"Major environmental effort could not be fully expected if hydropower plants are privatized, stressing that we can’t compel a private entity to care for our watersheds," Ms. Antonino said.

Mindanao hosts eight major river basins, the largest of which are the Agusan and Pulangui river basins. Within these river basins are 262 watersheds -- with Agusan and Pulangui also the largest -- that drain into nine major and 20 secondary rivers.

Ms. Antonino said that deforestation and unsustainable agriculture practices have so far resulted in massive soil erosion.

"The end result is a heavily silted Pulangui River and Lanao Lake," she said, noting that siltation of dams leads to significant reduction in power generation capacity of hydropower plants.

The problem has been neglected for some time, Ms. Antonino said, adding that the proposed power company is hoped to take care of not just the regular maintenance of the hydropower plants, but also the restoration of its surrounding watersheds.

She said MinDA is gearing to implement a program on watershed management called "Mindanao Nurturing Our Waters" (MindaNOW) that will be launched early next month as part of environmental conservation measures in the island.

MindaNOW is a flagship program of MinDA in partnership with key government agencies, private sector and nongovernment organizations.

"It is anchored on a sustainable development framework that aims to enhance an enabling environment towards achieving sustainable economic development while maintaining ecological integrity," Ms. Antonino said. -- RSS