NPC seeks permanent fix to ROW woes

by Myrna Velasco, 19 July 2015
from Manila Bulletin

The National Power Corporation (NPC) has sought for a more permanent solution to the right of way (ROW) dilemmas at power transmission lines to finally put to rest the possibility of a worst case power supply situation in Mindanao.

The National Power Corporation (NPC) which owns and operates the Agus hydropower complex in Mindanao is leading that call, in coordination with the region’s law enforcers, local government units and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) which is the country’s transmission service provider.

In an interview, NPC President Gladys Cruz-Sta Rita has noted that about 60 percent of Mindanao grid is recurrently threatened with massive blackouts if no permanent fix or policy can be enforced against the ‘inconsiderate’ vegetation and planting of trees underneath the transmission lines and towers in critical parts of the grid.

“We are working on a more permanent solution to this problem and we have been coordinating with various stakeholders as to what best we can do to resolve this,” she stressed. The next meetings are scheduled this July 21 and 23.

Sta. Rita noted that the delivery of the capacities generated by the 727MW Agus plants of NPC will be severely affected if the transmission lines hobbled by these ROW problems cannot make their way out from adamant landowners who have been continually growing and replanting trees underneath critical transmission facilities.

The 100MW Iligan plant of Mapalad Power Corporation of the Alsons Group will similarly be hit by tripping of transmission lines, mainly the Agus-Baloi line.

Such incident could then result in massive opportunity losses for various industries catered to by power supply drawn from the Agus hydropower facilities as well as the other affected power plants. This will just then compound the inconvenience it will trigger on residential consumers and other end-user segments like the commercial establishments.

Cutting of brownout-inducing trees were implemented last week, but Sta Rita noted such stop gap measure may only last for 6 to 8 weeks – and then the ‘tripping fears at transmission lines’ may strike again.

At least two landowners are on ‘ambulance-cashing mode’ and have been causing major snags because they have been demanding exorbitant amount of P6 million for the trees identified for cutting – when the prudent valuation drawn up by NGCP had just been at P800 million plus.

For his part, Col. Gilbert Gapay of the Philippine Army contingent who led the cutting of trees in the critical areas traversed by transmission facilities has noted that an Executive Order or a law could be the perfect-fit solution to the ROW problems at power facilities in Mindanao.

Malacañang’s help on this dilemma was already sought through a letter that was sent by the Department of Energy to the office of Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa. The Palace has yet to give its response on the matter.

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