CEBU CITY – Sectoral leaders and representatives from all over Visayas converged at a power summit yesterday to tackle pressing issues confronting the power sector, in particular, the government’s privatization of the power industry. They also vowed to hold a Visayas-wide day of action on November 22.

Spearheaded by the Visayas chapters of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, the Visayas Multi-Stakeholders’ Power Summit was attended by participants from Eastern Visayas, Negros, Iloilo and Cebu who voiced their opposition to the Aquino government’s decision to bid out the supply contract of the Unified Leyte Geothermal Power Plant (ULGPP) in Tongonan, Leyte.

“With the sale of the independent power producers administration (IPPA) covering the 640-megawatt ULGPP, the government through the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp. would have successfully consummated the privatization of the single largest power source for the Visayas grid,” Manjette Lopez, FDC National Vice President, said.

Lopez explained that since the enactment of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) in 2001, PSALM Corp. had already privatized 91.7% of National Power Corporation’s (Napocor) generation assets in the Luzon and Visayas grid.

“The government is in a rabid frenzy to dispose of public generation plants to pay off Napocor debts which stood at $16.39B in 2001. Yet, more than eleven years later, with most of the Napocor assets now in the hands of the private sector, the debt shot up to a staggering $17.4B,” said Aaron Pedrosa, FDC Cebu Secretary-General.

EPIRA provides the legal framework for the privatization of Napocor’s assets and the deregulation of the power industry.

In a Manifesto, the participants decried that the EPIRA regime of more than 11 years has only proven that privatization is the wrong prescription intended to reform the power industry. It has “only sanctioned the divestment of essential and strategic power generation assets including those which form part of the country’s national wealth,” the Manifesto read.

Priscilla Naig, FDC Negros Secretary-General, shared the experience of the people of Negros Occidental when Green Core Geothermal Inc. (GCGI), the power arm of geothermal leader Energy Development Corporation (EDC), entered into a power sale agreement with Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) in December 2011.

“Negrenses were subjected to 100 percent increase in electricity rates. It is not far-fetched that the same can happen to other islands in the Visayas region that get power from ULGPP,” she stressed.

For her part, Lydia Ligahon, FDC Eastern Visayas Secretary- General, said that the problem does not end with the sale of the ULGPP-IPPA.

“In fact, the total privatization of the ULGPP is only a litmus test for the eventual sale of the Agus-Pulanggi Hydro Power complexes and Angat hydro-electric power plant in Mindanao and Luzon, respectively,” Ligahon said.

“Electric consumers who are robbed of the collective ownership over what should be national wealth are made to shoulder the burden of paying off the debts through exorbitant power rates while the private sector makes a killing by raking in super profits. All these with the imprimatur of the government which is providing the climate and conditions for privatization,” added Ted Ong, FDC Iloilo President.

The groups which converged under the Visayas Network against the Privatization of the Power Industry (VNAPPI) declared the holding of a Visayas-wide day of action on 22 November 2012 through different activities ranging from ringing of Church bells to street mobilizations culminating in a simultaneous switching off of lights from 7:00PM to 7:30PM.

“It is high time for the different stakeholders to take direct and decisive action, to register our vigorous opposition against the total privatization of ULGPP. The government should finally accept that EPIRA is a failure and the privatization of the power industry instead of democratizing the sector, bringing down the cost of power and ensuring reliable and secure electricity has only done the reverse,” Lopez concluded. -30-

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