No amount of assurance from the government will mask the fact that Mindanao is in the clutches of a power crisis that threatens to sap the region’s potential as the next growth hub.
The present administration has grand plans for Mindanao once a final peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is signed. A host of projects are in the pipeline, just waiting for the security situation in the region to improve. When that happens, Mindanao will live up to its reputation as the Land of Promise.
The recent spate of massive power interruptions is a symptom of the predicament facing Mindanao. Plants have shut down, cutting off electricity in large parts of the region for hours on end. The reason for the outage: the demand for power far exceeds existing supply.
In its report on the 2013 power supply-demand outlook, the Department of Energy noted that the Mindanao grid has been experiencing “undergeneration” since 2010. It also said half of the region’s plants are hydroelectric and depends on “the availability of water and affected by weather conditions.”
The department said Mindanao needed 1,600 megawatts of additional power “to meet the electricity demand and the required reserve margin of the grid.”
Those are dire projections, but there seems to be no serious attempt to address them.
There has been no dramatic improvement in Mindanao’s power situation since the Energy department issued its outlook. Just last week, the department reported that the region’s power supply of 1,064 MW was 158 MW short of its peak demand of 1,222 MW.
As early as 2012, Dr. Gerardo Sicat, noted economist and the first director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, warned that the electricity problem in Mindanao “has been a crisis waiting to happen.” In a paper he wrote, Dr. Sicat put the blame squarely on the government, which he said “did not pursue the series of long term actions required to solve the power development problems of Mindanao.”
Dr. Sicat said there was no effort to connect the Mindanao grid to the Luzon-Visayas grid, which “would have accomplished an integration of the grid system of the nation.”
Mindanao’s power base load was not increased sufficiently, and government-run power plants were not privatized, “following the logic of EPIRA (Electricity Power Industry Reform Act).”
He considered as counter-productive government’s decision to use power barges to ease the shortage. “The generation costs of electricity of these barges which depend on diesel are more than three times those of hydroelectric power.” Dr. Sicat said.
The government has done little since Dr. Sicat shared his thoughts on the looming power crisis. Now that the crisis looms larger than ever, the Aquino administration is still groping for solutions.
It is time for our leaders to take a really hard look at alternative sources of energy, including as the use of waves to generate power. The country’s geothermal power program, which seems to have lost momentum, needs to be reenergized. Solar and wind power generation has also been done successfully in some parts of the country.
Last week Malacañang insisted that the government is doing what it can to solve the power shortage in Mindanao.
“It is not as if people are just standing idly by. They are making a solution because the power shortage is no joke,” one of the President’s spokesmen said.
We are sure the people in Mindanao who suffer every time the power goes out do not consider the shortage as a joke either.