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British Council, Xavier Ateneo tie-up for peacebuilding project in Bangsamoro

October 4, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--The British Council and Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan have joined forces for a peacebuilding effort for the Bangsamoro region called “Safe, Cohesive, and Just Communities (SCJC) Project: Art of Peace and Transforming Local Peace and Order Councils.” Xavier Ateneo's VP for social development Roel Ravanera and British Council (Philippines) country director Pilar Aramayo-Prudencio led the signing of the partnership agreement Tuesday, September 24, at the XU SocDev office.   “Today, with Xavier University’s partnership, we are taking the peacebuilding work of the British Council in the Philippines to a new level by introducing two new components to SCJC: Art of Peace and Transforming Local Peace and Order Councils,” Prudencio said. The project uses arts and culture education to “complement institutional and structural approaches to peacebuilding programming, in areas such as confidence building, skills training, self-expression, and intergroup understanding and tolerance.” The SCJC project will be pivoted in the Bangsamoro region. The details of the project will be rolled out soon by the British Council and the involved XU units. Prudencio added: “Arts and culture are regarded as a more neutral ground for mutual understanding than explicit peacebuilding activities because they are able to bring people from different groups together around a shared interest and goal, rather than around issues related to the conflict. They also provide a form of expression and a creative reflection.” In April this year, the British Council published a report that examined the value of culture in post-conflict recovery. The study drew on the experiences of Rwanda, Colombia, and Syria, highlighting the contribution of arts and cultural programs in post-conflict communities, through therapy, reconciliation, and civil society strengthening. “We also want to further understand the role of culture in promoting resilience in conflict-affected areas, and use this research to develop new theories of change,” Prudencio said. Xavier Ateneo was chosen by the British Council as a partner for this project because of the university’s “facilitation of interfaith dialogues, promotion of peace education, leadership in education training for Muslim teachers and Islamic values, and integration of culture and development in your social outreach programmes.” Ravanera believes that the arts can bring people together and result in a deeper cultural understanding. He also regarded this project as an opportunity to work with local governments and the Bangsamoro community. “Our experiences in Marawi, particularly with the internally displaced people (IDPs), along with our different peacebuilding programs will help us achieve the goals of this project,” Ravanera said. “We hope to serve the communities better and engage with them through arts and cultural education." During the partnership signing, Ravanera was joined by a number of deans, directors, and unit heads who form part of the SCJC project.    Xavier University holds a strong track record and experience in culture and social development, peacebuilding, outreach, and education programs. “We recognise your efforts working closely with local governments and community stakeholders and your creative approaches to peacebuilding through strategic communication and student-led campaigns that provided safe spaces for young people,” Prudencio said. As partners for peacebuilding, the two institutions look forward to working towards sustainable peace, good governance, and active citizen engagement for a more peaceful, secure, and resilient Bangsamoro.

Rep. Juliette Uy files HB 3462 establishing 25-bed hospital in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental

October 3, 2019

VILLANUEVA, Misamis Oriental--A 25-bed district hospital will soon rise in this town as second district Rep. Juliette T. Uy filed House Bill 3462 at the House of Representatives. Uy said HB 3462 seeks to establish the Northern Mindanao District Hospital of Villanueva, which will be under the supervision of the Department of Health (DOH). In her explanatory note, Uy said that the town of Villanueva is widely consideredas the growing industrial hub in the province of Misamis Oriental. Not only in Misamis Oriental, she pointed out, but even in Northern Mindanao as it has 16 medium to large scale industries. With its growing local economy and the influx of industrial plants, Uy said there is a steady increase in the population of Villanueva. "In line with this, there is a need to establish a hospital in the area to ensure that the population is given adequate health care in the quickest possible time especially during emergencies," said the lady lawmaker adding, "this is essential considering that Villanueva is 26 kilometers away from Cagayan de Oro City where the nearest hospitals are located."

XU joins global call for climate justice

September 30, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--On a bright Saturday morning, students and faculty members of Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan took to the streets the call to save and protect Mother Earth, saying there’s no Planet B. “The climate is changing, why can’t we?” one placard stated as the university students and formators marched from the XU Main Campus to the sidewalk along Corrales Avenue. Other placards said "Raise your voice, not the sea level," "Nature needs you, what will you do?" and "You do note climate change." The climate strikes all over the world urge public and private sectors to contribute to the attainment of climate justice and the creation of policies and programs to curb climate change. The XU climate strike was spearheaded by the XU National Service Training Program, made up of three components, namely, Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS), and Literacy Training Service (LTS). This activity formed part of the three-fold goal of XU-NSTP to achieving sustainable development: (1) To society, where the value of leadership in community engagement is highlighted; (2) To the economy, where the value for work and resources is maximized; and (3) To the environment, where the value of respect and care for sustainability of creation is observed. The organizers hope that the climate strike has inspired everyone to join the fight against climate change in their own ways and live a more sustainable and environment-friendly lifestyle. The September 28 climate strike came on the heels of the imposition of the “Absolute Prohibition of the Entry of Bottled Water to the XU Campus” and a series of clean-up drives and information campaigns in line with the International Coastal Clean-up Day led by the XU McKeough Marine Center. As a Jesuit university, Xavier Ateneo participates in the mission of the Society of Jesus in “the reconciliation with God, with others, and with creation; it seeks to serve the faith, promote justice, dialogue with cultures and religions, and protect the environment.”

LTFRB-10 lauds transport groups for not joining strike

September 30, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Region 10 (LTFRB-10) lauded transport groups that did not join the nationwide strike held Monday as public utility jeepneys ply the city’s streets and thoroughfares throughout the day. LTFRB-10 Regional Director Aminoden Guro said this could be due to the fact that most of the transport groups in the city are already amenable to the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) of the Duterte administration. “Most of them have already understood and have appreciated the advantages of the PUVMP,” Guro said, in reference to the transport groups who refused to join the strike. “It’s (transport strike) actually useless to take to the streets because this program, whether they like it or not, will be pushed through by the government,” he added. Guro said it is only now that the government is not intimidated by protest actions by transport groups as it is bent on implementing the PUVMP by next year. He said the groups who have participated in the transport disruption such as Acto, Piston and Pasang Masda have no members in the city. The National Confederation of Transport Union, the only collective that has members here, has previously signified that they will not join the strike, he said. Besides, Guro said, they will not hesitate to enforce the LTFRB memorandum circular that orders the revocation of franchise to any PUV driver or operator that will take part in a transport strike. Guro was referring to MC 2011-004 that states: “The PUV operator shall not resort to cessation of service as a sign or demonstration of protest against any government decision or action under pain of suspension or cancellation of the authority to operate granted by the Board nor shall the PUV operator tolerate, allow or authorize personnel to join other committing acts prejudicial to the riding public including, but not limited to paralyzing transport services by intimidation, coercion or violence,” “I want to remind them that the franchise is a privilege granted to them by the government, and if resort actions that would convenience the riding public, then we have the power to revoke that franchise,” he said. Those who did not operate Monday will have to explain to the LTFRB the reason why, he said. “If their excuse why they were not able to operate during the date of the transport strike is justifiable, then we will consider it. But if their reason is not justifiable, then we will be forced to revoke their franchise,” Guro said.

Gov’t urged to enforce competitive selection for least-cost power to reduce electricity rates, charge erring officials

September 27, 2019

A THINK tank headed by a former member of the House Energy Committee is urging the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to enforce the competitive selection process (CSP) in all power distribution utilities (DUs) nationwide to ensure affordable, least-cost power rates for all Filipinos.   “The energy department should continue its momentum in implementing the CSP in all electric cooperatives and distribution utilities after the success of the pilot CSP covering Meralco’s concession area,” said Atty. Terry Ridon, Infrawatch PH convenor and former House energy committee member.   “A transparent selection process ensures consumer savings in generation costs, which usually constitutes the most expensive component in our monthly electricity bills. Electricity consumers outside the Meralco concession area should also be able to benefit from this process.”     Consumer savings   Ridon said the rest of the country should be able to save a significant amount from competitive power rates arising from the CSP.   "The P0.28 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) savings under the Meralco CSP translates to ten-year savings of around P6, 720 for the average 200 kWh household. These savings can now be used for other expenses such as a child’s college tuition.”   DoE, consumer monitoring ensure transparency   Ridon said the pilot Meralco CSP served as a litmus test to determine whether the competitive bidding can be manipulated.   “An important component in ensuring the transparency of the Meralco CSP is the close and strict monitoring of the energy department in every step of the process. Another component is the inclusion of independent consumer representatives as part of the third-party bid-and-awards committee (TPBAC) itself. Without these, the transparency of the entire process could have been suspect.”   Ridon said the same strict monitoring and public participation should be undertaken in the soonest time in other areas.   Monitor ERC approvals   “After the Meralco CSP, the resulting power rates will now be subject to the confirmation of the ERC. The public should closely monitor proceedings in the commission to ensure that least-cost of power had in fact been determined, or whether further rate reduction can still be undertaken. But more important, the public should ensure that after exhaustive proceedings in the ERC, there should be no further delay in approving additional power supply.”   Ridon said delay in ERC approvals had been a serious concern during the summer months, as the Luzon grid experienced almost-daily red or yellow alerts signaling very significant dips in power supply.   “As medium-term power supply continues to be concern, we most certainly hope that the ERC will deliver on its mandate in the soonest time," he added.   Charge erring officials in Ombudsman   But a Cagayan de Oro-based consumer group wants more drastic action. “Instead of just urging the DOE and ERC to implement the CSP nationwide, charges should be filed at the Ombudsman vs. DOE officials and ERC commissioners for continuing to refuse to require the distribution utility companies to carry out CSP prior to entering into power supply contracts with generating companies,” said Engr. David A. Tauli, president and spokesman of the Mindanao Coalition of Power Consumers. “The EPIRA requires all DU’s to carry out least-cost acquisition for their power supply, and to carry out a competitive process in purchasing materials, equipment, and services. The EPIRA is very explicit and clear about the necessity of least-cost acquisition to be done by the DU’s; and both the ERC and DOE have long ago issued resolutions on how the DU’s could comply with this requirement. (CSP, public bidding, and Swiss Challenge have been accepted by the ERC as forms of compliance by the DU’s of the EPIRA requirement for least-cost acquisition of power supplies.)” Non-Compliant PSAs However, Tauli alleges that when Zenaida Ducut and Jose Salazar were chairpersons of ERC, they approved Power Supply Agreement (PSA) applications that were submitted to ERC that did not comply with the least-cost acquisition required by EPIRA. “These PSA applications that were anomalously approved by the ERC include the PSA’s of electric cooperatives with the FDC coal power plant in Villanueva and with the Mt. Apo geothermal power plant that were contracted in the period 2014-2015. They also include the seven PSAs of MERALCO with coal generating companies. These PSA’s violated the EPIRA by NOT carrying out CSP, public bidding, or Swiss Challenge,” Tauli stressed. The Supreme Court has already ruled with finality in July 2019 that all PSAs that were filed after July 30, 2015 that did not carry out CSP in accordance with the DOE directive are in effect “declared null and void ab initio”. However, the allegedly anomalous contracts with the FDC coal plant and with Mt. Apo were submitted to the ERC before July 30, 2015. Thus, the PSAs of Mindanao (electric cooperatives) ECs were not among the PSAs that were annulled by the Supreme Court decision. “But many of the PSA’s of Distribution Utilities (DUs) that were done after July 30, 2015 have been annulled, including four PSA’s of CEPALCO, and one PSA of SOCOTECO 2. There are many other PSAs that were annulled but those are the only ones I know about,” Tauli admitted. Starting this October, Tauli said the MCPC will again conduct info campaigns among consumers of the electric cooperatives to file petitions with the ERC for the annulment of the anomalous PSAs of the Mindanao electric cooperatives. “We will start with BUSECO, and move from there to MORESCO 1 & 2, CAMELCO and the other ECs that have continued to cheat their consumers using anomalous PSAs that were approved by the ERC,” Tauli disclosed.   “Eventually, we should be able to file charges of corruption vs. the ERC commissioners during the time of Ducut and Salazar for their part in approving PSAs of the ECs that did not comply with EPIRA requirements,” he added. High cost of power rates in the region. During the 28th Mindanao Business Conference held in Iligan recently, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and its affiliate chambers in Mindanao passed recommendations on action required at the national level to address the high power rates in Mindanao.   Among these were ensuring a  transparent and fair playing field in the power industry to attract investments in energy, thereby maintaining the grid’s dependable capacity and augmenting existing supply in the region with the entry of new power projects; the full implementation of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) in Mindanao to provide a competitive market for buying and selling of electricity that are not covered by bilateral contracts, including the setting of price cap and floor price; reviewing the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) dispatch protocol to prioritize the cheapest power source in the region (e.g. Agus-Pulangi Power Plants) and amend  the EPIRA Law to exempt Agus-Pulangi Plants from privatization and ensure cheaper power rates. The MBC also recommended the fast tracking of infrastructure projects to improve power generation such as harmonizing the transmission development plan with renewable energy (RE) targets, and address potential grid reliability concerns with the scaling of variable renewable energy resources and advance RE development efforts, including implementation of Off-Grid RE Development. Agus-Pulangi Rehab During the closing plenary of the 28th MBC, Cabinet Secretary Karlo B. Nograles announced that the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Plant rehab was among the projects lined up for China financing after the President obtained US$9 billion official development assistance (ODA) during his visit to Beijing in October 2016. Funding for this was firmed up as part of the “second basket” of projects in September 2017, and according to the NEDA, the rehabilitation of the plant is scheduled for 2020, to be completed by 2022 However, media reports have quoted National Power Corp. telling a House Committee recently how the rehabilitation of the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric complex could take place beyond 2025 with studies on the proposed rehabilitation scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020, while the rehab itself “could go beyond 2025.” Napocor president and chief executive officer Pio J. Benavidez, said in March that the cost of rehabilitating the Agus complex would be between P37 billion and P40 billion (BusinessWorld, 2019).

PowerSource group bolsters Iligan’s growth

September 18, 2019

ILIGAN City--Iligan’s biggest investment project in years is now operating its thermal hybrid power plant in Barangay Kiwalan assuring the Industrial City of the South’s continuous electricity supply. In a press conference called during the recently concluded 28th Mindanao Business Conference held at the MSU-IIT gym in Iligan City, officers of the Power Source Philippines Energy Inc. (PPEI), a subsidiary of the PowerSource Group, announced it completed the construction of its P3 billion (B) hybrid power plant, in July of last year. PSPI has set up PowerSource Philippines Energy Inc. (PPEI) as a special purpose vehicle for the project. Its Board of Investments (BOI) filing listed an initial investment of P2.3 billion in 2015 and construction of the power plant commenced in February 2016.  “Through a joint effort with the local government unit, other energy companies, and the local community, we want to help protect and bolster Iligan’s energy future so that homes have light, businesses can function, and important healthcare services continue to operate worry-free,” said  Ricardo G. Lazatin, President of PowerSource Group, PPEI’s mother company. “This plant is unique in the sense that it is an embedded plant within Iligan,” said PPEI Executive Director Michael Dennis D. Rayala. “So basically, if anything happens say a massive blackout in Mindanao, PPEI and other embedded plants in Iligan can power the city independently. So there is assurance and security of power in such situations.” The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) granted PSPI a certificate of compliance (COC) last February 6, 2019 to operate its 25-megawatt (MW) circulating fluidized bed (CFB) thermal hybrid plant and two units of 3.20 MW blackstart diesel engine generator sets located in Brgy. Kiwalan, Iligan City, Lanao del Norte. The plant utilizes a mix of 70% coal and 30% biomass. Rayala said PPEI signed a 25-year power supply agreement (PSA) with the local distribution utility Iligan Light & Power, Inc. (ILPI) for 12MW baseload power and 8MW baseload power with Republic Cement Iligan Inc. Investments & Promotions Code Lazatin credits Iligan city for crafting an attractive local investment code which was a major factor in its decision to invest in the area. “PowerSource is highly appreciative of Iligan’s Investment and Promotions Code, which makes the city an ideal location for new business ventures,” Lazatin said.  Corporate Citizenship   Lazatin added the PowerSource Group is going beyond merely providing energy to the city and is also focusing on how the company can make a meaningful impact on the community. Foremost, PPEI made the decision to transfer its headquarters from Makati to its newfound home in Iligan on March 20, 2019 to show its long term commitment to the development of the city. “PPEI) our subsidiary that operates the embedded thermal hybrid plant in Iligan has moved its head office from Makati to Iligan because we’d like to really support the community and generate additional revenues and taxes for the city. Most importantly, this move is an insurance and a security for power supply in Iligan,” Lazatin stressed. Lazatin added that PPEI has complied with an extensive list of regulatory requirements in the development and construction of the plant, so by promoting good corporate governance, PPEI can help the city attract more investors to Iligan. PowerSource Group is currently drawing up plans to work with schools starting with the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) to create a cadetship program for young engineers and students that will aid their skills development. This will eventually help turn Iligan into the Philippine center of excellence for energy engineering, or what Lazatin calls Energyneering.  Aside from creating jobs at the plant, PPEI has donated a fire truck and ambulance worth P4-million to the Iligan LGU last June 24 which was assigned to its host barangay in Kiwalan.    “Right now, we want to focus on finding potential partnerships and building good relationships with Mindanaoan communities,” said Lazatin. “Aside from generating revenue for the local government, we’re hoping our presence encourages others to consider Iligan as a viable investment opportunity.”   Additional opportunities that PowerSource Group is currently exploring include, among others, initiatives that will support the environment and restore natural resources through agro-forestry and water distribution.   “PowerSource Group considers itself as a long-term partner in the economic growth of Iligan and the rest of Mindanao. We are here for the long haul in helping promote the brighter future of Mindanao,” Lazatin concluded.


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