COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao: A foreign investor has committed to improve the electric power supply here by investing in the island provinces of BASULTA (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that has suffered from perennial brownouts or no electricity at all in many parts.
Lawyer Ishak Mastura, chairman of the ARMM Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) said that Kaltimex Rural Energy Corporation, local affiliate of an Indonesian-Indian company known for providing power in off-grid islands of the Indonesian archipelago, has decided to invest in Sulu Archipelago, particularly in Tawi-Tawi.
Kaltimex will invest P400 million in an 8-megawatt (MW) diesel-fed power barge that will expand capacity in the future through co-generation with a solar power plant, in agreement with Tawi-Tawi Electric Cooperative (TAWELCO).
“This is God-sent because our target is really to improve the dire situation in the island provinces of ARMM in terms of human and economic development that breeds Abu Sayyaf and we cannot do this without reliable electricity supply,” Mastura said.
Kaltimex is also holding talks with the Sulu Electric Cooperative (SULECO) for a similar project.
It will be noted that the island province of the Sulu archipelago is notorious as the lair of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf, which recently landed in the headlines again for beheading one of its foreign kidnap victims.
As experienced by this correspondent, who hails from Indanan, Sulu, the archipelago is literally gripped in darkness and people live in the dark age not only because of the Abu Sayyaf terror but because electricity coverage is sporadic and for the most part its people and communities have no access to electricity.
Mastura added that Basilan is also part of the company’s investment strategy to provide services in off-grid and isolated island electric power markets or what is known as SPUG (small power utilities group) areas in the Philippines.
Even if there is electricity in some parts there is a long-running energy deficit owing to lack of additional power generation capacity and dilapidated equipment so that there are regular brownouts with only a few hours of power in a 24-hour cycle, the ARMM-RBOI chair added.
He pointed out that electric power access brings many benefits, which include enjoying a range of social, economic, and technological advances, but these island communities have been suffering from decades of conflict and underdevelopment compounded by lack of electricity.
Meanwhile, Gov. Mujiv Hataman said that one of his primary goals is to make sure that BASULTA will have no more brownouts through more energy investments that will power industries and bring light to the island communities.