A series of bombings of power transmission lines in Mindanao may result in failure of elections, lawmakers warned on Monday.
Reps. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City (Misamis Oriental) and Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro issued the warning after the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) revealed in a congressional probe that nobody has been charged for the bombings of at least five towers of power transmission lines in Lanao del Sur since October last year.
Tower 21 was bombed in October 2015, while Tower 13 was bombed in November. Tower 25 and Tower 4 were bombed in December 24 and 28, 2015 respectively, while Tower 23 was bombed just two days ago. The latest bombing was on Monday.
“If we do not have power supply, classrooms and polling precincts will be in the dark. How can we have credible elections? We might have failure of elections,” Rodriguez told reporters after the House inquiry.
“Mindanao has 11 million voters. We can’t afford brownouts in Mindanao in the coming weeks, especially on May 9,” he said.
NGCP Corporate Secretary Ronald Concepcion said repairing damaged transmission lines is difficult either because landowners have denied them access to the towers or are asking exorbitant payouts for right of way.
“We notice a pattern that bombings of power transmission lines increase a year before
elections. These bombings of five towers isolated Agus 1 and 2, which can only provide up to 60 to 80 megawatts (MW) of dependable power,” according to Concepcion.
The NGCP official’s disclosure prompted Umali to call for another hearing.
He also summoned Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ricardo Marquez and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hernando Irriberi.
“The PNP and Armed Forces are sleeping on the job. We should invite them here for this concerns national security. This is a criminal offense. We have to stop these bombings. [These bombings are] threatening our elections,” Umali said.
Concepcion noted that landowners are intentionally building houses and other structures and planting trees directly under the transmission lines that not only get in the way of the repair of the bombed towers but endanger existing lines.
He said the landowners merely show photocopies of land titles that cannot be verified since these are not found in the Registry of Deeds, and these land titles do not have tax declaration records in the Office of the Municipal Assessor.
Concepcion said the landowners’ demand for compensation ranged from P6 million to P355 million.
“We are concerned these [bombings, trees and structures] may affect the integrity of the line. We need assistance to get into the affected areas, and we have talked to local government units and filed right of way cases, but it has not been fruitful and we are not confident of early resolution [of]the cases,” the NGCP official added.
“Besides, they are demanding amounts which are unreasonable,” he said.
On Monday, the NGCP’s tower number 50 was bombed. The tower is located in Barangay Pantar, Dimayon Bubong, Lanao del Sur.
“Fortunately, the tower did not topple. Restoration of tower 50 will commence as soon as the area is secured,” the NGCP said in a statement.
This is the second bombing of NGCP towers this year, with the Agus 2- Kibawe line still out since December 2015 after Tower 25 was bombed. The tower, located in Ramain, Lanao del Norte, was bombed on Christmas Eve.
“NGCP was denied access to tower 25 by the landowners who demand payment from Transco for their decades-old claim. The dispute remains unresolved to this day,” the NGCP said.
The power firm said the bombings only aggravated the tenuous power situation in Mindanao.
The NGCP appealed to the public, government officials, the police and military to help identify perpetrators of the bombings, and to negotiate with uncooperative landowners to prevent longer power interruptions.