DAVAO CITY, Philippines
06 May 2009
- A UP economist doubts that there will be a power crisis in Mindanao that will justify government's approval of the Hedcor-Aboitiz Hydroelectric power project, as there appears to be little if no statistical basis for forecast of demand for electricity.
Dr. Maria Teresa Diokno-Pascual, an economist from the University of the Philippines - Diliman who has been studying the country's electricity demand projections, rather advised government to put primacy on the need of millions of people for water and protection of the Tamugan-Panigan River.
Addressing a crowd of consumers and environment advocates during the recent forum entitled “Power Over Water: Creating a Crisis in Davao” at the Mindanao Training and Resource Center in Bajada, Diokno explained that in looking at this crisis in Davao, it is necessary to revisit government and private sector power projections and to identify what is driving growth in Mindanao and what kind of development do people want in Mindanao.
"National government projections on energy needs are often hard to believe because their estimates do not come from the ground. The threat of a power crisis have often been used to force us to to accept their projects. Yet historically, if you look at the time when the supposed crisis should have hit, sobra-sobra pa ang supply ng electricity dahil mali-mali ang projections nila. In fact, if you look at the data, pinakamaliit ang energy requirements ng Mindanao compared to Luzon and Visayas," she said.
Diokno stressed that if it is just based on population growth, then there is not much need for additional power capacity. But if the economic agenda for Mindanao is mining and agribusiness, then this justifies the reason of government to grant Hedcor's demand. This however, runs contrary to what the people need who will not agree with corporate control over natural resources, she added.
“While Aboitiz claims that its Tamugan and Sibulan hydropower projects are clean energy projects, the drivers of such demand for power are mining and agribusiness plantations engaged in destructive agriculture practices that destroys the environment and contributes further to climate change,” said Juland Suazo of the Foundation for Philippine Environment.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Davao city chapter meanwhile warned against an emerging oligopoly of the Aboitiz over power generation and distribution that could lead to further increases in electricity rates. Aboitiz also owns the Davao Light Electric Company that supplies electricity in the city. FDC said that if the Hedcor power project pushes through, the city’s water district might no longer have control to the only remaining potable water source that is the Tamugan river thereby paving the way for Aboitiz to take control over water distribution through the water district’s privatization.
According to Erwin Sarmiento, FDC-Davao secretary general, DCWD’s services might be compromised by Hedcor if the latter shoulders their operational expenses and additional building costs that they will incur in rerouting their planned water project because of the presence of a hydro power plant there. At present, DCWD is paying Davao Light-Aboitiz annually the sum of P211-M for the cost of pumping ground water from its wells that the latter will lose such income if DCWD taps surface water that runs with gravity flow and will not use electricity. -30-