Power barge to boost electricity supply in terrorist-infested Mindanao island

by Manuel CayonJune 16, 2016

from Business Mirror

DAVAO CITY—A joint Indonesian-Indian company has acquired a power-purchase agreement with an electric cooperative in Tawi-Tawi island in the country’s southern backdoor, raising hopes of improved power supply in this portion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Lawyer Ishak Mastura, chairman and managing head of the ARMM Regional Board of Investments (RBOI), said Kaltimex Rural Energy Corp. has decided to invest in energy development in the country’s southwesternmost island-province of Tawi-Tawi.

He said the company is the local affiliate of an Indonesian-Indian company “that is known for its expertise in providing power in off-grid islands of the Indonesian archipelago.”

The company has already secured a power-purchase agreement from the Tawi-Tawi Electric Cooperative, he said, and it would proceed with its plan to construct an 8-megawatt diesel-fed power barge.

The power barge, with this listed capacity, would cost around P400 million, Mastura said in a news statement e-mailed to the BusinessMirror.

Kaltimex is also now in discussion with the Sulu Electric Cooperative to put up the same venture in the island.

Mastura said his company has similarly set its eyes on Basilan “as part of the company’s investment strategy to provide services in off-grid and isolated island electric- power markets, or what is known as SPUG [small power-utilities group], areas in the Philippines.”

He added that the company has also informed the ARMM-RBOI of its future venture into “cogeneration with a solar-power plant,” adding that the future installation of power barges for the three southwestern island- provinces have been factored in.

“This is God-send, because our target is really to improve the dire situation in the island-provinces of ARMM in terms of human and economic development that breeds Abu Sayyaf, and we cannot do this without [a] reliable electricity supply,” Mastura said.

He added that the new investment would help the administration of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman attain its goal of “no more brownouts in the Sulu archipelago.”

The three island-provinces—Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu—are known collectively as the Basulta —that are under the political jurisdiction of the ARMM “suffer from perennial brownouts or no running electricity at all in many parts,” Mastura said.

“The island-provinces of the Sulu archipelago are also notorious as the lair and stomping grounds of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf, which very recently landed in the headlines again for beheading one of its foreign kidnap victims,” he added.

“The Sulu archipelago is literally gripped in darkness and people live in the Dark Age not only because of the terror of the Abu Sayyaf, but because electricity coverage is sporadic and, for the most part, its people and communities have no access to electric power,” he said.

Mastura added that the island-provinces “have only a few hours of power in a 24-hour cycle, even if there is electricity in some parts, because there is a long-running energy deficit due to lack of additional power-generation capacity and dilapidated equipment.”

“Electric-power access brings many benefits, which include enjoying a range of social, economic and technological advances, but these island communities have been suffering decades of conflict and underdevelopment compounded by lack of electricity,” he said.