Brunei’s Bolkiah to bring natural gas to Mindanao PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 April 2013 10:29

President Benigno Aquino III Wednesday divulged that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei is seriously considering bringing natural gas to Mindanao to solve the region’s power shortage.

In his speech during the ceremonial contract signing of PHIVIDEC Industrial Authority and FILINVEST Development Corporation Utilities Inc. in Malacanang, the President said the energy situation in Mindanao did not arise overnight.

He said: “Trouble began brewing when a number of legislators from the region wished to be exempted from the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA).

“This divorced Mindanao from the Republic Act that allowed NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) to sell its plants to private investors, using the proceeds to reduce its debt.

“It would allow — and it has allowed — our power sector to be influenced by sound business policies, and not merely by political expediency.”

Aquino said EPIRA abolished the system that once allowed politicians and other officials to simply undertake what was politically convenient — to artificially lower electricity rates just to gear up for coming elections.

“But the system remained the same in Mindanao,” he said.

Back then, the President said, leaders from Mindanao sought to continue taking advantage of the massive hydro resources in the area, with the dangerous assumption that the cheap hydro power could last forever.

“They (Mindanao leaders) neglected the fact that the hydro power plants are machines that need to be maintained and improved, especially if they are to meet the increasing demand,” he said.

“The focus on maintaining cheap power in an unsustainable manner scared away investors, who did not have the confidence to set up alternative power resources in Mindanao. In short, temporary convenience trumped preparedness for the future, and, ultimately, the people of Mindanao lost,” he noted.

Since he assumed office, President Aquino said, “our intention has been clear — No longer will Mindanao be known merely as the Land of Promise. It will become the Land of Promise Fulfilled.”

He said the contract being signed Wednesday “is a concrete symbol of our progress towards that goal. It is a strong statement of our administration’s belief that long standing problems can be solved not simply by choosing the easy solution, but by embarking on the right solutions — which require a thorough understanding of the problem, and careful consideration of all factors involved.”

The contract signing also demonstrates “a new face of Philippine governance — We are witnessing a great step in our shared pursuit of bequeathing to succeeding generations a Philippines that meets its full potential,” he noted.

“Through the collective efforts of forward thinkers in public service, and of our partners in FILINVEST, we are showing our commitment to sustainable, inclusive growth whose impact will be felt by Filipinos even decades from now,” he added.

Under his administration, President Aquino said they have begun making the structural changes that encouraged the private sector to come in and put up power plants.

He cited Aboitiz who has built two coal-fired power plants in Davao last year, which will provide a total of 300 megawatts.

“These will be finished by 2015, and by then, with all the projects we have lined up, we fully expect that this (power shortage) problem will be a thing of the past,” he said.

“The confidence we are enjoying is palpable even in the international community,” he noted.

In fact, President Aquino said, as mentioned by the Sultan of Brunei during the meeting Tuesday, “they (Brunei) are very serious about their intention to bring natural gas to Mindanao.”

“The memorandums of understanding have already been signed for this project,” he said.

These power plants being put up by private sectors like Aboitiz, which will be producing, by 2016, an estimated production capacity to be almost 470 megawatts above peak demand — “we are not just increasing Mindanao’s maximum capacity. Beyond that, we are reinforcing their entire energy supply with more reliable and stable sources,” the President stressed.

“We are making their energy infrastructure much more competitive. We should also not forget that in constructing these power plants, Filinvest will be injecting P29 billion into Mindanao’s economy, while giving jobs to 2,000 workers in the process,” he noted.

In the coming years, President Aquino said, “the economy of Mindanao is set for explosive growth”

“We can fully expect that more investors will turn to Mindanao — in addition to those that have already found places like Davao and Cagayan de Oro to be lucrative centers of business. Consistent and fairly priced energy will be the factor that will tip the scales in Mindanao’s favor, and ensure its growth — and the well-being of its people — in the years to come,” he said.