The Enigmas of Mindanao Power

Manila Bulletin, August 11, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Enigmas of Mindanao Power


MANILA, Philippines - The land of plenty is true for Mindanao with respect to hydro electric power. The beautiful Maria Cristina Falls, named after a queen of Spain, was harnessed to produce electricity.

Although it can easily produce about 1,000 megawatts, right now it produces only about 700 MW or about half of the electricity demand of the island. The roar of cascading water is opened for tourists only on Sundays at eleven in the morning.

The potential of this Agus River from Lake Lanao water, they say, is up to 2,000 MW. The other hydro system is the Polangui River with capacity at present of 400 MW but producing less than 200 MW. These two power sources were exempted from privatization ten years ago in the law dismantling the government monopoly but to be privatized after ten years.

Almost all thinking Mindanao citizens do not want this privatization to be done until there is enough power in the Mindanao grid to supply present needs. The main objection to privatization is that it will trigger a spike in the cost of electricity.

Some of the big boys want privatization now which would be reasonable if in the past ten years something was done to provide adequate power for the island. Since nothing was done, privatization at this point would punish the consumers unnecessarily.

The subsidy for these electric systems would not be necessary if the income from these power systems were retained in Mindanao and the pricing for this electricity were normalized. Right now, the NPC can only charge about P3 for this power.

It is true that the actual cost is only about P1 per kW. It should be allowed to charge the going rate and be able to keep the money here in Mindanao instead of sending it to Manila for PSALM and other NPC expenditures. Privatization should be done only when there is surplus power in Mindanao. Right now the Mindanao grid is always in danger of brown outs as there is no reserve power available.

The enigma of power in Mindanao is because hydro or water sources are so abundant that electricity has been cheap. …

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