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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).

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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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PDEA-10 director to jail warden: resign

September 18, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--The head of the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency in Region 10 (PDEA-10) yesterday (September 18) sought for the resignation of Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail (MOPJ) Warden Dominador Tagarda. PDEA Director Wilkins Villanueva urged Tagarda to resign shortly after his two sons were arrested for illegal drugs inside the compound of the Tagardas in Gumamela Extension in Barangay Carmen yesterday morning. PDEA-10 agents reportedly seized more than a dozen of sachets allegedly containing methamphetamine hydrochloride locally known as "shabu" when they executed the search warrants against Gregor and his younger brother Von Clinton Tagarda. Villanueva told reporters the Tagarda brothers have been the subject of surveillance since 2007 until their final arrest were made on Wednesday (September 18) when the PDEA arresting team were able to secure a search warrant from a judge. "Mag resign ka na, nagtratrabaho ka sa MOPJ. Itinago niya ang kanyang anak sa Gingoog City. Witness pa ang 3 taong gulang sa pag rerepack. Nasa iisang balay at lugar sila," Villanueva was quoted as saying in a report posted by Bombo-Radyo-Cagayan de Oro in its website. Over Magnum radio, Tagarda belied the accusation hurled by Villanueva. In the same interview, Tagarda said he has already filed his early retirement which is scheduled in December this year.

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Hog industry in Normin still safe from ASF: aggie exec

September 14, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--The 200-kilos of pork grilled during the weekly Farmers' Market Day at the capitol grounds on Friday (September 13) can help boost the hog industry in Northern Mindanao, said an official from the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 10 on Friday. “It’s important that we secure our region from the outbreak of the ASF,” said Juliet Araos, DA-10 regulatory division chief during a press conference called by the Misamis Oriental provincial government. Araos said the spread of the deadly virus that can infect and kill swine in a matter of days can be slowed down as the country is archipelagic. Although the ASF has not yet reached Mindanao, agriculture officials are not taking any chances as points of entry to the island are being closely monitored. Dr. Leo Mira, officer of the Bureau of Animal Industry’s regional veterinary quarantine services, said they have stepped up their monitoring of incoming pigs and meat products and byproducts from other areas, whether local or imported. Those most likely affected if the ASF reaches Mindanao are the hog farmers. Robert Uy, a hog raiser in Northern Mindanao, said since they have biosecurity measures in place in their farm facilities, they are confident their livestock will not be easily infected. Their concern, though, is the lowering of the farm gate price of the pig. The average per-kilo for a live swine is P125 per kilo, but due to the ASF scare, they are selling these past days at P95 per kilo. But, he said, it has not yet affected their production on a large scale. Uy added those most vulnerable of the ASF are the backyard piggery growers who feed their swine with “swill” or food scraps. “Commercial hog raisers feed their livestock with feeds, while our backyard counterparts with swill. We urge them to cook the swill for at least an hour before feeding to kill the bacteria,” he said. At the weekly farmers’ market held at the Misamis Oriental Capitol grounds on Friday, about 200 kilos of pork meat were grilled and then given to the public and employees. This, Dr. Benjamin Resma, the provincial veterinarian, said is “to prove that our pigs and pork meats are safe and are free from the African Swine Fever.” On Thursday, Misamsi Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano has issued an executive order banning pigs, pork products and byproducts from entering the province, especially those coming from areas with ASF infestation. The executive order has also activated task force that will implement the ban including inspection and coordination with other government agencies to ensure no pigs and pork products from ASF-infected areas can enter Misamis Oriental and nearby provinces.

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‘Bambi’ leads tourism week festival in MisOr

September 14, 2019

PROVINCIAL Governor ‘Bambi’ Emano inaugurate the new tourism building in front of the provincial capitol as the observance of the weeklong tourism week in the province kick-off  today. Emano said that the weeklong tourism festivity showcased a wide and diversified array of food flavors uniquely made in the 25 municipal towns and cities of Misamis Oriental. He said that for the key players and tourism stakeholders, the celebration opens an avenue to reach a wider consumer population and exposure. Jeffrey Saclot, the provincial tourism officer, said that for the past two years now, the celebration lamps on one central them dubbed as “Tienda sa MisOr: A MisOr Food Exhibit.” Every month of September, the province of Misamis Oriental joins earnestly in the country’s annual celebration of the National Tourism Week, highlighting the quintessential food delights of the different municipalities and cities, Saclot said. He said that tourism has become the flagship program of the Emano administration, which propel Misamis Oriental into an economic powerhouse. As a flagship program, Emano banks on the potential economic activities that a flourishing tourism industry could offer. Aside from bringing the food products closer to your table, the province’s sole culture and the arts are also on the spotlight during the celebration. Saclot said that the Emano administration always brings the province to the national tourism radar that behind the mist of misconception, Misamis Oriental is more than just what meets the eye. Saclot also invites everyone to visit the Activity Center of Ayala Centrio Mall and the Misamis Oriental Provincial Capitol Lobby on September 16-20, 2019. Explore MisOr and be part of this year’s Province-wide Tourism Week Celebration. -0-

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8 GCTA prisoners in North Mindanao yield

September 13, 2019

EIGHT prisoners in Northern Mindanao who availed of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) had initially yielded to the various sub-police stations in the region. Lt. Col. Mardi Hortilloza, the spokesperson of the regional police command in Camp Alagar in Cagayan De Oro City, said that the eight former prisoners are now in the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). He said that some of them were already transported to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Manila while others were still in the CIDG. According to Hortilloza, the Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR) has also informed the police regional command of the updated list of GCTA prisoners. “We are expecting more names of the GCTA prisoners who remained at large to be transmitted to the regional police command anytime,” Hortilloza said. He said that the BUCOR is releasing the names of GCTA prisoners by batches. He said that the freed prisoners voluntarily reported to the various sub-police stations in Northern Mindanao to beat the 15-day deadline issued by President Rodrigo Duterte. On Sept. 4, 2019, Duterte gave a 15-day recall order to all released heinous crime prisoners under the GCTA to return to prison. He said that the police will apply a warrant of arrest only after the 15-day deadline set by the President has lapsed. Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, of Cagayan De Oro City, warned that the police who would conduct a “warrantless” arrest against the freed prisoners could be charged in court. Rodriguez said that the released prisoners were already released and were already considered free and no longer deprived of liberty. -0-

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