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Mindanao Power Shortages Spark Friction

The Manila Standard Today reports that the exact location of the April 13 Davao energy summit is being kept confidential by the government in an effort to prevent protests from occurring at the venue. The paper claims “the Palace…did not invite lawmakers, environmentalists and the businessmen who exposed the crippling blackouts in Mindanao and opposed the privatization of the Agus-Pulangui hydroelectric plants.”

The only information released by the government indicated President Benigno Aquino III would convene the summit in Davao, which seeks to provide long-term solutions to Mindanao’s electric shortages.

Mindanao Development Authority chairwoman Luwalhati Antonino states, “It will be a stakeholders’ meeting composed of representatives from the energy providers, energy consumers, the business sector, local and national government officials and Congress. It will be an opportunity to present the concerns of the stakeholders as well as their recommended actions which the President can immediately approve if they are doable.”

Critics of the government’s energy policies promised to show up with or without a formal invitation.

Ramon Floresta, Kidapawan Chamber of Commerce and Industry president told the Manilla Standard Today, “I am attending…We want a permanent solution to the power crisis, not just stop-gap measures that they are now offering us. We want to hear what the President will have to say about the power crisis we are hurdling every day.”

Alliance of Groups Supporting Science and Technology for the People (Agham) representative Teddy Casiño adds: “The Palace is making the venue a secret so we are also making our plans secret. We do not know if the Summit proper will be in Davao or in Manila, so I guess they did not want people to rally against the President. The Palace should realize that the protest-rallies are also the people’s way of raising their concerns because not everybody can be accommodated in the summit. We did not get an invitation, so we will invite ourselves to the event wherever that is.”

Casiño is also critical of the decision to force the electric cooperatives to buy expensive power from private suppliers. Some cooperatives agree such a policy would significantly increase the cost of power. Casiño claims the private supplies have been allowed to gouge consumers. “It would simply be wrong for the government to force consumers to bear the cost of such corporate manipulations.  In the long term, aside from immediately rehabilitating the hydropower plants in Mindanao, the government should tap solar power and other renewable energy sources to augment the existing supply.”

Francis dela Cruz, public outreach coordinator for Greenpeace, says his organization is supporting the Mindanao consumers opposing the government’s plan to build more coal-fired power plants. “The dirty coal will tie the people of Mindanao to 30 years of high power rates and generations of serious adverse impact on the environment.”

Opponents of the coal powered plants believe residents are being forced to accept “dirty” energy or simple go without power.

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