With widespread power interruption gripping Mindanao and conflicting reports as to its main cause, Senator Chiz Escudero has asked the Senate to look into the true power situation in Mindanao through Senate Resolution No. 753.

Escudero, a member of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC), has asked the Senate committee on energy to immediately conduct an inquiry into the power deficit in Mindanao in order to 1) confirm its true situation; 2) determine the issues to be resolved; and; 3) institute policy reforms, even if it would mean amending Republic Act 9136 or the EPIRA Law.

Residents have been experiencing rotating brownouts lasting one to two hours daily. Many fear of prolonged power outages that may last up to eight hours with the on-set of the summer season.

Escudero said getting down to the bottom of the present power problem in Mindanao was “a matter of significant concern because its impact may impair the economic soundness and competitiveness of Mindanao as an investment hub.”

“Just because this is not happening in the metropolis does not mean this problem is not important. One-fourth of our population lives in Mindanao . Immediate intervention must be given to this persisting problem given the already volatile peace problem in Mindanao. The only way to avert and finally solve the peace problem is by improving the state of development of the people and their livelihoods. This cannot happen if future investors and current businesses pull out from Mindanao because of unstable power supply which is a solvable problem”.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which has been blamed for the daily power outages, said power supply in Mindanao was acutely short due to “lack of power supply generated by plants.”

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairman Luwalhati Antonino has accused the NGCP of creating an “artificial shortage” in its bid to have the Angus-Pulangi Power Plant privatized.

The Department of Energy (DOE), on the other hand, said the shortage of supply and the electric cooperatives’ decision not to contract and purchase the necessary capacities within their respective areas were the primary causes of the power interruptions.

Escudero said the DOE can consider opening up the market for competitive players to construct more power plants in the island, with the government still maintaining, if not controlling, at least influence over the market.

“There is a dormant asset lying in the electric cooperatives nationwide who has an asset base of 130 billion pesos at any given time. The Agus-Pulangi hydro power plants, which supply half of Mindanao’s power demand, need to be rehabilitated for at least 3 billion pesos so it can generate additional capacity,” Escudero said.

“The government can tap the electric cooperatives to rehabilitate the said plants. In return, the government can sell them power at a low cost competitive for the cooperatives to earn and get their return of Investment,” he added.

Escudero also said the government, through an executive order, can make an inventory of all privately-owned generator sets through mandatory registration. The combined power generated from all the private generator sets has a capacity to supply an entire city.

“As an example, in Philippine Export Zone Authorities (PEZA) sites all over the country, power pooled from all their generation sets can provide 278 megawatts in capacity. If we can convince them to use it in times of need, it’s like creating a 278- megawatt plant. Compensation and incentives should be given to them of course,” the senator suggested.