Aquino now against selling hydropower plants, says Mindanao agency head

President Benigno Aquino has changed his mind about the planned privatization of the  Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric power plants and now believes that doing so would be illegal, his adviser on Mindanao’s economic development said here on Monday.

Luwalhati Antonino of the Mindanao Development Authority  said Aquino has found that pushing the privatization of the two hydropower facilities would be against the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Epira law.

“The President himself is now against the privatization. He has realized that privatization of Agus and Pulangi hydro power plants will violate the Epira law,” said Antonino, who met with Aquino on Sunday.

Antonino said the Agus and Pulangi hydropower facilities could not be sold separately because although it is composed of several power generating sets, they share the same water source and the same water rights.

She said the buyer of the two facilities would corner more than half of Mindanao’s energy sources under the planned privatization.

But under the Epira law, a private company cannot not own 30 percent of an area’s power generation sector. In the case of Agus and Pulangi, the two facilities supply 52 percent of Mindanao’s energy needs, Antonino said.

During her meeting with the President, she said, she proposed that the management of Agus and Pulangi hydro power plants be given to Mindanaoans.

“I told P-Noy that Mindanaoans are interested to manage the Agus-Pulangi hydro power plants. I’ve talked to several businessmen in Mindanao and they are willing to help,” Antonino said.

She said the management of the plants could be undertaken by the proposed Mindanao Power Corp.

“If we manage that, we can make it earn. And we can easily check the irregularities. It’s public knowledge that the National Power Corp. was mismanaged,” Antonino said.

As to the rehabilitation of the plants, she said, she told Aquino that the plants were earning money and that they could sustain rehabilitation efforts.

Pulangi needs about P11 million for rehabilitation while the 60-year-old Agus needs P2.5 billion.

Antonino said that based on government data, Napocor spends less than a peso to generate one kilowatthour of power from the two hydroplants and sells it at P3 per kilowatthour.

From this, she said, it is clear that the power plants are making money.

Antonino said a Mindanao Power Committee has been created to serve as think-tank and oversight body in finalizing the planned turn-over of management of Agus and Pulangi power complexes from Napocor to the proposed Mindanao Power Corp.

The Department of Energy will form part of the Mindanao Power Committee, which is composed of representatives from the business sector, power consumers, distribution utilities and other stakeholders in the power industry.

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