Palace acts to resolve transmission bombings in Mindanao power grid

by Myrna Velasco – January 8, 2016

from Manila Bulletin

Davao City — After warning of grid collapse and bombing of 16 transmission towers, Malacanang is finally moving feet to resolve the right-of-way (ROW) problems distressing the operations of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Mindanao.

In a briefing with reporters on the sidelines of the inauguration of the 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant of the Aboitiz group, President Benigno S. Aquino III has noted that “a meeting will be held next week” to figure out the valuation concern of the ROW dilemmas with landowners refusing entry into their properties. “That’s precisely to address the inconsistent zonal valuation and the concerns of the landowners,” the Chief Executive said, adding that there could have been several ways to deal with the issue, including the enforcement of some existing policies.

Aquino added “by having said that, this is an industry imbued with national interest, surveyors can be utilized to ensure access to the repair of the transmission towers.”

The problem of ROW at transmission facilities was elevated by NGCP to the Department of Energy and Malacanang through a letter to the Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa as early as June last year.

In a separate interview with Energy Secretary Zenaida Y. Monsada, she has indicated that a multi-agency task force to be led by Secretary Ochoa shall be created primarily to flesh out the options that they can take to fix the Mindanao grid’s mess.

If a ‘compromise valuation’ will be arrived at, she emphasized that it will be the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) that will be settling the corresponding amounts to the landowner-claimants.

NGCP has noted that one transmission line critical to the operation and wheeling of generated capacity of the Agus hydropower plant has not been restored until now due to failed negotiations with the owners of a property partly traversed by the Agus 2-Kibawe line.

Monsada acknowledged reports that the settlement amounts being demanded by some landowners have been ‘exorbitant’, thus, the government is hoping that this can finally be sorted out.

She noted that there are some laws that they might be able to apply to ‘continually guard’ vital energy facilities, but she is still non-committal if an Executive Order issuance would turn out to be final outcome of the discussions.

The energy secretary has reiterated her warning that the probable grid collapse will not only harm power supply in the region, but it will also jack up electricity rates for power consumers in the Mindanao grid.