THE NATIONAL Power Corp. (Napocor) has encountered delays in moving forward a plan to rehabilitate the Agus hydroelectric power complex in Mindanao after the country rejected funding from France, one of 18 countries that backed a resolution calling on a United Nations council to monitor human rights in the Philippines.

Nagkaroon ng problema doon (It encountered a problem there),” Pio J. Benavidez, Napocor president and chief executive officer, told reporters, referring to the funding that was for a study on the best option for the plant.

Itong country na ito, hindi puwede sa Pilipinas kasi sumuporta (This country does not qualify in the Philippines because of its support to the resolution),” he added.

France was reportedly a co-sponsor of the resolution before the United Nations Human Rights Council initiated by Iceland on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines.

Mr. Benavidez said an initial funding of $2 million was supposed to come up with an initial study, during which the World Bank was to submit to Napocor the best option in rehabilitating the Agus complex.

Na-delay lang nang kaunti (It was slightly delayed),” he said, adding the issue has since been settled.

The Agus hydro power asset has an installed capacity of at least 700 megawatts (MW), with the biggest coming from the 200-MW Agus VI in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte. Agus VI has five operating units, two of which have a capacity of 25 MW each and the remaining three with 50 MW each.

Of the seven separate sites for the Agus hydro power plants, only one, Agus III, has not been completed. However, most of the plants within the complex are operating below their rated capacity, giving plant operator Napocor a lower dependable power output.

The complex, which is owned by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., remains in government hands after the passage of Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

Mr. Benavidez said Napocor was looking at three options for the Agus plant: attain the rated capacity; increase it by 10%; and improve the water efficiency.

He said the option that is likely to be adopted is the retention of the Agus plant’s rated capacity because of the existing power overcapacity in Mindanao.

“Surplus ka na so baka hindi mo maibenta (You have a surplus, so you might not be able to sell the energy capacity),” he said.

“[In] six years, overcapacity pa rin ’yung Mindanao (In six years, Mindanao would still have overcapacity),” he said.

Mr. Benavidez said the cost of rehabilitating Agus could reach P30 billion to P35 billion. He said a feasibility study could be started in March next year, with the bidding for the entity to handle the project possibly happening in the second half of 2020. — Victor V. Saulon