Mindanao Power Corp., Railways bills hurdle House committees

Posted on March 08, 2017

BILLS CALLING for the establishment of Mindanao Power Corp. (Minpocor) and Mindanao Railways Corp. were approved recently by the House committee on government enterprises and privatization in its joint hearings with the committees on energy and on transportation.

The committee, chaired by North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Nonato Sacdalan (1st District), in a joint hearing with the committee on energy chaired by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco, approved the consolidation of House Bills (HB) 122 and 357 -- both seeking to create the Minpocor, authored respectively by Reps. Celso L. Lobregat (Zamboanga City, 1st district) and Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. (Cagayan de Oro, 2nd district).

During the hearing, Mr. Velasco stressed the need to create an organized government corporate entity that will push economic development of the Mindanao through the availability of electricity at a reasonable cost.

HB 122, according to Mr. Lobregat, was a re-filed version of the same bill which hurdled third and final reading during the 16th Congress but was not enacted into law.

Mr. Lobregat’s bill seeks the non-privatization of the Agus and Pulangui Hydropower Complexes, and pushes for a viable way for government to operate and maintain these sources of cheap power.

“The most concrete effect of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 on Mindanao is the treatment extended to Agus-Pulangui Hydropower Complexes -- considered as crown jewels of the Mindanao power industry -- which continue to bring low power rates in Mindanao,” said Mr. Lobregat.

Mr. Lobregat also said the Agus-Pulangui Hydropower Complexes should not fall into the hands of “profit-driven private interests.”

“It seems the Agus-Pulangui Hydropower Complexes remain a lucrative endeavor and economically-viable entity, but all efforts are geared towards their privatization. Happily, privatization will not happen because the people of Mindanao always oppose it. And even the President of the Republic has enunciated his favor to retain the Agus-Pulangui Complexes,” said Mr. Rodriguez, chairman of the committee on Mindanao affairs.

Mr. Rodriguez moved that his HB 357 be consolidated with that of Mr. Lobregat’s proposal to hasten their approval this 17th Congress.

Both the National Power Corp. and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp. expressed support for the proposal.

PSALM Officer-in-Charge Lourdes S. Alzona said the company supports the proposal as long as it is consistent with the EPIRA. She said that under EPIRA, privatization of the hydropower complexes is subject to the discretion of PSALM, in consultation with Congress.

Meanwhile, in another hearing, the House committee on government enterprises and privatization and committee on transportation, chaired by Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento (Catanduanes), jointly approved HBs 123, 358, 1653, 2066 and 3159, which all seek to create Mindanao Railways Corp. prescribing its powers, functions, and duties, and providing for the necessary funds for its operations.

The committees also approved HB 3909, which seeks to establish the Mindanao Railways Authority.

Samar Rep. Edgar S. Sarmiento (1st district), House transportation committee vice-chairman, said the proposed creation of the Mindanao Railways Corp. is included in the legislative agenda of the House of Representatives this Congress.

“The bill was originally filed in 1987, during the 8th Congress. It was continuously re-filed in the succeeding Congresses, but always failed to reach the Plenary. But now in the 17th Congress, with our President coming from Mindanao and the proposal being among the top legislative agenda of the House, the long-awaited dream may come true with the construction and operation of the Mindanao railways system,” Samar’s Mr. Sarmiento said.

Deputy Speaker Rep. Raneo E. Abu and Mr. Rodriguez proposed that the concerned agencies also check the blueprint for Mindanao and the Japan International Cooperation Agency feasibility study to avoid the unnecessary repetition of processes which could produce more delays for the project. -- Raynan F. Javil