Celso retorts critics on power issue PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 02 May 2013 11:05

Mayor Celso Lobregat yesterday said an opposition District 2 councilor who is riding on the power issue has to do some researches before using the issue to malign or attack him.

“Pakilaya el presidente disculpa con el maga congresista de 11th Congress kien ya vota apabor con el EPIRA law because the president himself was part of Congress at that time?”,Lobregat asked in reaction to a report quoting Councilor Rommel Agan saying that President Aquino is blaming the Mindanao congressmen of the 11th congress, singling out Lobregat, for the present power woes in the island.

Lobregat, who was a part of the 11th Congress, said how can Mindanao congressmen be blamed for the woes when the position that solons took was to oppose the privatization of the hydroelectric plants.

“Our position then was that we wanted to give the competitive advantage of Mindanao as power was cheaper in Mindanao because of the hydroelectric plants,” Lobregat said stressing that more than 50% of the power at that time was supplied by the hydroelectric plants which is the reason why the solons did not want to sell or privatize the hydroelectric plants.

He continued: “maybe the one who is talking or saying this does not know what he is talking about, nosabe le el punta’y pono de este issue, so porke apabor ba le man privatize el hydro plants? Kame hunto con otro maga congresista antes, no kiere ke man privatize el hydroelectric plants”.

Lobregat suspected that Agan is using the power issue to be in the limelight, as the councilor is greatly affected by Team PNoy’s discussion during sorties about the opposition’s [the so-called green party] attempt to sell Zamboanga.    As published on newspapers and aired on television, Agan was one of the opposition members who invited Romeo Jalosjos, a former Zamboanga del Norte congressman, who was convicted in a rape case, to run for mayor in the city.    Jalosjos, whom Agan described as the “prince charming” that is being awaited to spend the city’s savings in the bank, has been disqualified by the Comelec by virtue of a case filed by Cong. Beng Climaco and District II congressional bet Jomar Lobregat citing perpetual disqualification in view of Jalosjos conviction.

The Mindanao solons’ stand on EPIRA law

In an interview simulcast over TV-11 and DXEL-FM yesterday morning, Lobregat lengthily discussed about the power issue.

The mayor explained that the power situation has been discussed in Congress since 2001. The EPIRA law came into being at a time when the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) was incurring huge debts because of power generation and whereby the government had to spend billions of pesos to subsidize NPC that led the government to  realize that it is not an efficient manager of public utilities.

Lobregat said privatizing power generation was the focus making hydroelectric power plants, then supplying over 50% of power in Mindanao and the cheapest form of electricity, as the center of discussion. As the GMA government then wanted to privatize the hydroelectric power plants, Mindanao solons were saying otherwise.

“We wanted to keep the competitive advantage of Mindanao, we do not want to sell or privatize the hydroelectric plants –that was our position and that remains to be the position especially of our Team PNoy Zamboanga”, Lobregat said stressing that this position is stipulated in the party’s “contract of unity and continuity towards a more developed, peaceful, progressive Zamboanga”.

The party, he stressed, pushes for the establishment of base-load power plants in the city consistent with environmental laws and policies given the growing demand and limited supply of power in the entire Mindanao. The party also seeks to ensure that hydro power remains a major source of power in Mindanao as well as to sustain Mindanao’s competitive advantage in power. The Agus and Pulangi hydro complex must be regularly and properly maintained and efficiently managed and should remain in the hands of government.

“That was our position before as a congressman— no to the privatization of hydroelectric plants and that is still our position now,” Lobregat declared.

The city’s power demand

Zamboanga’s power demand is between 85-87megawatts and what Zamcelco gets from the grid (PSALM) ranges from 30-40mw giving a deficit of 50mw.

Originally, when Zamcelco was negotiating with the Therma Marine Inc. (TMI), the supposed supply was 25mw, however, Lobregat said, due to opposition by some individuals and sectors that resulted to undue delays in negotiation, the 25mw became only 18mw.

Realizing that it needed more power, Zamcelco again negotiated for another contract, this time with MAPALAD power corporation (MPC), for another 25mw supply. This was again met with oppositions, one of which is at the City Council (by a west coast councilor) causing delays in the finalization of the contract and leaving Zamcelco with only 18mw to take.

The MPC is a 100mw plant in Iligan City, which the Iligan City Government itself decided to forego due to inability to pay taxes. “El Iligan government mismo ya embarga conese planta, porke? Kay nuay sila paga el impuesto pero el gobierno de Iligan never ran that plant because government, LGUs should not be in power generation”, the mayor recounted. “If you say now that the LGU should be in power generation maybe el Iligan yah ace ya corre el 100mw power plant.”

The Alcantara Group, which operates the San Ramon Power Inc. has purchased the MPC and is now being rehabilitated, a process that will take all the way to September this year.

“Si nuay kien yan contra para compra el Zamcelco na TMI 25mw plus na Mapalad 25mw, that is 50mw. If you have 40mw from the grid, that is 90mw, that is more than what Zamboanga needs, even if the grid supply goes down to 30mw, we still have sufficient power, so our brownout today will only be one hour”, Lobregat affirmed.

Long term, medium term solutions

A long term solution in Team PNoy’s 18-point agenda, Lobregat said is the establishment of the base-load plant, a project that the Alcantara Group started studying over 2 years ago, but due to oppositions, such as a Talisayan group, a delay was again encountered. But despite the delay, the contract has been signed by the SRPI and Ecozone for the establishment of the plant in San Ramon and the SRPI and Zamcelco for a power supply agreement of 85mw.

Now Zamcelco has already the long term solution because it has already signed the contract for an 85mw, meaning to say the long term solution is there, Unfortunately this will still come in 2016 yet”, Lobregat continued.

Power Summit in Davao

Prior to the Davao Power Summit in 2012, Lobregat met with power stakeholders to identify short term, medium term and long term solutions and among the recommendations were the establishment of a base load power plant (a long term solution and is now under process) and the need for Zamcelco to program early purchase of additional power demand from other sources for the years 2013-2015.

“Ese ya ya abla kita conel Zamcelco, compra ya (power) from other sources such as TMI and Mapalad. Si nuay man object el cuantos maga gente o sector y ya pursigi compra el 25mw from TMI y 25mw from Mapalad, nuay kita blackout este dia”, the mayor emphasized.

7mw on May 3

Instead of 2mw, Mapalad is set to deliver the first 7mw power supply to Zamcelco on May 3, which will reduce power outage in the city by over an hour more or less, according to Lobregat.

With the ongoing rehabilitation of the MPC plant in Iligan, the original schedule for its delivery to all its customers is as follows: 15mw by April, 30mw by May, 60mw by June and 98mw by September.

Take note, Lobregat said, because of the delay in the negotiations, instead of the 25mw, Zamcelco is left only with 18mw supply and Zamcelco was the last to sign the contract with MAPALAD. Originally, the 18mw, based on the power sale agreement, was to be delivered in the following schedule: 2mw by April, 7mw by May, 11mw by September and so forth all the way to 18mw by August.

Lobregat, has personally asked Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chair Zenaida Ducut, a colleague in the 11th Congress to allow Zamcelco to draw power from Mapalad pending the issuance of the provisional authority, hearing of which is set May 14, to which the ERC executive agreed.

In addition, Lobregat also wrote a letter and talked with SRPI (sister company of Mapalad) executives to accelerate the delivery of the 18mw to Zamcelco the soonest possible time and to look for other sources to help Zamboanga resolve its power problems.

Aside from assuring the delivery of the 7mw by May 3, Mapalad, based on the urgent request of the mayor, is also looking for other power sources, one of which is various industries like Philcintel and Dole located inside PEZA zones, which is a potential 7mw. Initially, Lobregat has communicated with PEZA administrator Lilia de Lima to help facilitate the negotiations between Mapalad and the industrial companies for the early delivery of additional power to Zamcelco.

“I also have been talking with Energy Secretary Petilla, he is looking at ways to augment the power. I don’t want to announce something and it will not happen but we are working very hard to get additional sources of power”, Lobregat assured. — Rey Carbonel