VIRAC, Catanduanes — The provincial governor here who is supposed to lead in undertaking an environment-friendly project to minimize, if not combat, global warming turns out to be its strongest oppositor.
Gov. Joseph Cua of Catanduanes reportedly has expressed his opposition to the proposed construction of a mini-hydro power plant here despite favorable endorsement by Bishop Manolo A. De los Santos of the Diocese of Virac, the League of the Municipalities of the Philippines-Catanduanes chapter, Bicolano Senators Joker Arroyo and Gregorio Honasan, and of the National Power Corporation.
Sources claimed the project runs counter to the business interest of the governor.
The min-hydro power plant is an electric power generating plant that utilizes the kinetic energy of falling or running water (run-off river hydro plants) and turn the turbine generator to produce electricity. The project hopes to generate no less than 101 KW or more than 10,000 KW of renewable and clean energy.
Elizaldy ‘Zaldy’ Co, president of the Sunwest Water and Power Co. Inc., (SUWECO) accused the governor of being the real ‘inconvenient truth’ because the governor is involved in diesel fuel business.
Co expressed disgust upon learning that Gov. Cua is blocking the mini-hydro power project which could have otherwise generated employment, provide clean energy and resolve power outages.
Co said that Cua monopolized the diesel-fed fuel business in the island Catanduanes, and worst, sell it at 30 percent higher compared to prices in mainland Bicol.
“There was a businessman who put up the Petron gasoline station and spent almost P2 million but he (Gov. Cua) opposed it too because it would affect his diesel business. The issue here is not only moral but ‘vested interest’ considering that he was elected as public servant. If he allows our project, the government will save P200 million a year, aside from providing clean energy,added employment and income,” Co told Bicol Mail.
Aside from gasoline business, Cua is also engaged in rice trading, owner of RSL buses plying from Catanduanes-Manila vice versa, and sea crafts operating the Catanduanes-Tabaco sea lane.
Co is constructing the Solong mini-hydro projects with capacity of 2.1 MW in San Miguel town, Hitoma 01 with 1.5 MW and Hitoma 02 with 1.35 MC capacity all in Obi, Caramoran town, Gigmoto mini-hydro power plant with 0.55 capacity in Gigmoto town and Kapipian mini-hydro project with 2.8 MW capacity in Solong,Catanduanes with the total of 8.3 MW capacity.
Apart from Catanduanes mini-hydro projects, Co is currently constructing several mini-hydro projects in the country such as the Villasiga Mini-hydro project in Igsoro, Bugasong Antique, Guiamon San Ramon Mini-hydro project in Laua-an, Antique, Dalanas Mini-Hydro-project in Barbasa, Antique, Tiniano Mini-Hydro project in Tibiao, Antique with 14.1MW total capacity. All these projects were supported by Bishop Lagdameo of the Diocese of Jaro to address the acute power shortage in Panay island, especifically in Iloilo.
In Albay province the on-going mini-hydro power plants are the Misibis Multi-Purpose Reservoir in Cagraray Island, Bacacay town, Cumagingking and Vera Falls mini-hydro projects in Malinao town.
The mini-hydro projects in this island province is programmed to be operational by 2010 with a total of 5,375 KW capacity and additional 2,600 kW capacity by 2013 to stabilize and energize numerous barangays here.
Unfortunately, the renewable energy project of SUWECO was blocked by Govv.r Cua before the Energy Regulatory Commission last month.
Cua cited the following grounds in his opposition paper submitted May 26,2008 : the applicant failed to submit the documents prescribed by law; there is no competitive selection process or bidding undertaken by FICELCO in the selection of SUWECO as new power producer; the selling price of electricity offered by the firm is grossly overpriced and is against the basis established by law; SUWECO has no technical and financial capacity to undertake the project; the cooperation period stated in the Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) is violative of the law; and SUWECO did not conduct a feasibility study to justify the assumptions made in the ESA.
As if on cue, Arvin T. Amata, provincial legal officer of Catanduanes, also asked the ERC to invalidate and scrap immediately the instant application for approval of the ESA submitted by SUWECO and FICELCO for lack of merit.
SUWECO entered into ESA with the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative Inc. (FICELCO) whereby the latter would pay for all the electricity produced by the proposed mini-hydro electric plants at a discounted rate of 4 percent less than the subsidized and approved generation rate (SAGR) for Catanduanes for a period of 30 years from commercial operation, Co said.
On May 7, 2008, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Catanduanes led by Vice Governor Alfredo M. Aquino granted Gov. Cua an authority to represent the provincial government in any legal action relative to the electricity supply agreement entered into by FICELCO and SUWECO.
The provincial board council stated in their authorization given to Cua to oppose the said agreement due to following grounds; FICELCO has an existing ESA with several power providers which to date still remains to be in effect not having been declared invalid or rescinded by any competent authority in an appropriate proceedings, several provisions of ESA between FICELCO and SUWECO are found to be detrimental to FICELCO and its consumers.
The council added that the provincial government, pursuant to its mandate under section 16 of the RA 7160 to promote the general welfare of the people of Catanduanes, is duty bound to do and enforce any legal action including opposing the application for approval of the ESA between Ficelco and SUWECO which is pending before the ERC.
Former Senator Francisco Tatad, a native of Catanduanes, opined that Cua and his allies’ move was disadvantageous to the people while it was deemed to protect the governor’s business interest.
Tatad had Rodolfo Albano, Jr., Chairman of the Energy Regulatory Board to help facilitate the speedy completion and immediate operation of the mini-hydro projects being undertaken by SUWECO in several municipalities of the island province in order to liberate their poor constituents from the scourge of unstable power supply and inordinately high prices provided by highly polluting bunker-fed sources.
“I am made to understand, however that certain provincial politicians who are involved in the sale and distribution of bunker fuel, are moving to block the projects for their own reasons,” Tatad said in his letter to Albano.
He said that as former chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and principal sponsor of the Electric Power Crisis Act in the Senate, it was his dream then to see the province of Catanduanes and other small islands in the country which are cut off from the national power grid, become self-sufficient in energy, through their exploitation of indigenous renewable energy sources like water, sun and wind.(BicolMail)