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Sunday, 07 February 2016 14:15

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

Los Angeles, CA. — Let’s deviate a little from politics this time and pass on to you what’s happening in the world of electricity in relation to Zamboanga and neighboring cities and provinces.

If Zamboanga isn’t experiencing scheduled or abrupt power outages, it is because she is getting more than enough electricity from power providers, more importantly the Western Mindanao Power Corporation that’s situated in Sangali. Let me stress: WMPC is an embedded diesel-run power plant. I’ll explain its significance later. Davao, the premier city in Mindanao, and General Santos city are having short-time blackouts of from 30 minutes to one hour.

Psalm’s allocation to Zamboanga has been drastically reduced from 30 megawatts to 15 MW because of water problems. But we’re not having rotational blackouts because WMPC (gracias a Dios), a company owned by Alsons Power Group, has been supplying 50 MW since December, last year, augmenting electricity supplied by ZAMCELCO.

The soothsayers are doomed. They claimed in many instances that the 50 MW that Zamcelco contracted with WMPC is an oversubscription. OMG, without that, we would have gone ESCURO MUNDO again for at least 3-4 hours daily. And because of the expiring contracts with two power providers by March with a combined output of 36 MW, Zamcelco hurriedly, with the insistence or interference of City Hall, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with San Miguel Corporation represented by Don Ramon Ang, SMC president, for the supply of 35 MW. Just recently, the MOU was translated into a Power Sales Agreement (PSA) for the delivery of 35 MW by June of this year.

Very good. The bad side of it is that SMC is not a sure-fire provider because under the new rules of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), power distributors like Zamcelco are required to call for a bidding first before entering into a contract with power providers. To this, Zamcelco has already complied with the new ERC regulation inviting coal-power generators to bid for the supply of 35 MW. If Aboitiz, Alsons or other power providers don’t bid, then SMC is it. Then, Mayor Climaco-Salazar would have gotten her wish. For some strange reason, she has always been fighting for the entry of San Miguel into Zamcelco’s system. If everything goes well in the bidding process and the PSA is approved by ERC, then NO HAY MAS BLACKOUT. NEVER AGAIN...unless.

From Davao city, Victor V. Saulon wrote in Business World that “supply in the Mindanao grid received a boost starting last Monday with full operation of the new 300-MW coal-fired power plant of Aboitiz Power Corp.’s Therma South Inc., but allocation to power utilities remain tight.”

Another 150 MW of coal-fired power will be available by the first quarter this year from the Alcantara’s Sarangani Energy Corp.’s plant in Sarangani province. The problem is this: rebels and saboteurs keep bombing transmission towers rendering parts of Mindanao in purgatory. The Mindanao Business Council and the Mindanao Electric Power Alliance (MEPA) are scheduled to meet with the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee to “discuss the lingering power concerns, particularly those relating to the National Grip Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the private firm that operates the country’s transmission facilities.

The military and the police need to address the headache relating to the protection and security of transmission towers. Since last December, several towers have been knocked down due to precise, pinpoint bombings by the saboteurs resulting in the isolation of power supply sources. It seems like they have studied the Mindanao grid pretty well that the towers they felled have contributed immensely to the power crisis.

The MEPA said that  the attack on the towers have been largely attributed to the right-of-way issues with the owners of the properties where these towers are located... “But there could be other underlying matters that must be explained to stakeholders.” The quoted sentence gives me the creeps: BUT THERE COULD BE OTHER UNDERLYING MATTERS THAT MUST BE EXPLAINED TO STAKEHOLDERS.

The power supply problem is also blamed on the drought (experienced every year and yet the government has not made any contingency plans to fight it). El Niño is a bad little boy. Nasty kid. The water levels in Agus and Pulangi hydropower complexes that supply half of Mindanao’s power requirements are receding faster than you can say DUTERTE. Davao Light and Power Co., the biggest contractor of the Mindanao grid with 279 MW continues to have power interruptions of from 30 minutes to one hour daily until, hopefully, today only citing “reduced capacity due to El Niño and the collapsed towers due to the bombings.”

Now, I’ll delve on the importance of having WMPC in Sangali and, eventually, the coal-induced power plant of the San Ramon Power Inc. in San Ramon within the perimeter of the Zamboecozone. WMPC is an embedded power plant. This means that no matter what happens to the Mindanao Grid - bombing of towers or felling of power lines due to the wrath of Mother Nature as was “Yolanda” - Zamboanga will always have electricity. Power won’t have to criss-cross Mindanao before reaching us, unlike the power we need to draw from SMC which plant is located in Davao del Norte. The blackouts occurring in Davao city is partly due to bombed towers. That’s the last thing we want.

Sustained and reliable power are offered to us by Alsons Power Group. That promise will last for 25 years or beyond, depending on what the future will present. This WMPC plant is ours. Embrace it, don’t fight it — as our politicos are obviously doing. When the SRPI plant becomes operational in 2019, we shall have two embedded plants and all the power we will need for the RISE OF ZAMBOANGA.

Incidentally,  the Sarangani power plant operated by Alsons is now in the commissioning phase. Oscar Benedict E. Contreras III, corporate communications head of Alsons Power Group, confirmed the other day that the first 105 MW section of the Sarangani Electric Corp. power plant is on track to begin commercial operations as scheduled within the first quarter of this year.