SUSPECTED REBELS BLOW UP NGCP TOWER

Cotabato, Maguindanao endure total blackout

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SUSPECTED rebels blew up the transmission tower of National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), cutting off electricity in North Cotabato, Maguindanao and the entire city of Cotabato. There were no reported casualties, officials said Friday.

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The attack occurred late Thursday in Pagangan, Aleosan of North Cotabato, plunging NGCP’s franchise area of Cotabato Light and Power Company (Colight), including towns in the PPALMA area (Pigcawayan, Pikit, Alamada, Libungan, Midsayap and Aleosan) into a total blackout.

Pikit town is where Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and jihadists actively operate.

Aleosan Mayor Vicente Sorupia, Jr. said NGCP’s Steel Tower No. 68 was toppled by an improvised explosive device (IED). He said residents reported hearing loud explosions at about 9:20 p.m. on Thursday.

Some areas covered by Cotabato Lights and Power Company reportedly regained their power supply as of noontime Friday.

Cotabato city residents have been dealing with rotational brownouts of two to three hours a day for the past two weeks.

Thursday’s blast was the 11th bombing incident involving NGCP’s power transmission towers this year.

Previous tower bombings in the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato have been blamed on radical jihadists such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Al Khobar extortionist group.

The NGCP blames the recent tower bombing in Lanao on local land owners previously seen planting trees below the transmission lines, but the military is not discounting the possibility of the involvement of another radical jihadists group, the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement.

The NGCP said it has teamed up with local governments in Mindanao in efforts to solve the escalating right-of-way (ROW) violations in the region, and in pushing for the passage of a provincial ordinance backing up their proposals.

It said the intentional planting of trees under its transmission lines adversely affects power delivery to the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Zamboanga City, and the rest of the grid.
“ROW violations, along with the bombing attacks, have become significant problems for NGCP in Mindanao. It will be very difficult for us to deliver the available power supply to distribution utilities if we continue to encounter these problems,” it said.

Landowners have repeatedly rejected NGCP’s demand, but said they would agree to an offer of a reasonable compensation for the use of their estate. NGCP holds a 25-year concession contract to operate the country’s power transmission network.

WITH REPORT FROM MOH SAADUDDIN

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