Power crisis dims Mindanao’s promise

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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.

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3 Comments

  1. Anima A. Agrava on

    The administration of President Benigno Aquino began more than 3 years ago and will be 4 years in the saddle on July 1 2014. Up to now there is now real energy and power supply plan/ The latest news from DENR, Neda, etc. is that the plan will be available only in September.
    What is President Aquino and his Cabinet officials trying to do? Replicate the Dark Years of brownouts and blackouts nationwide during the presidency of his beloved mother President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino? I respect and even love the late President Cory but I also honestly also blame her and her administration for allowing the country’s power situation to go to seed.
    Her hatred of Marcos made her drop all the energy projects of the dictatorship and her people, including Joker Arroyo, Rene Saguisag, Jesus Estanislao, the late Jaime Ongpin, etc., were either too afraid of her anger or completely in agreement with her subjective and anti-development outlook with regard to electricity and the power supply. The result is the corrupt and very expensive ban-aids in solving the power crisis under President Fidel Ramos–and today’s situation.
    She handed over Meralco back to the Lopezes without asking them to pay for their huge debts to the government. The generation today don;t realize that when Marcos, using his brother-in-law Kokoy Romualdez, took over Meralco, the power generation and transmission monopoly had massive debts to the Philippine government (because they had behest loans from DBP and largesse from other government fund sources).
    President Cory’s administration should have told her technocrats to get large power plants built since she and they hated the Bataan nuclear plant so much.
    But she and her men did not.
    President Benigno Aquino seems to be averse to the pro-life, pro-God, pro-Church legacy of his mother. Maybe the only Cory policy he is emulating is inaction on the power crisis!

    • Hinrich Himmler on

      before you blame Aquino admin, blame first the ramos, estrada and the infamous arroyo regime before you go directly blame aquino? didnt you know that a 300MW is coming close to operate by 2015? are you not updated on the DOE program being implemented in Mindanao like the ILP and IMEM in order to have an alternative short term solution? Read first..

  2. Naku pooo! Sa galing galing ay mababa ang electricity bills ng mga taga Mindanao at sa pagpasok ng private firm ie SALIM’s group at EPIRA LAW na kaakibat nila e patay-patayan po ang mga mamamayan sa Mindanao.