Monday, March 21, 2011

Development Aggression,First Quarter of 2011,Part I:Geothermal Energy on Mt.Apo

Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco of Kidapawan City in South Cotabato Province has reversed his earlier decision and has decided to grant EDC (Energy Development Corporation) permission to construct a new 50 megawatt powerplant on Mt.Apo. Not only has he changed his mind, be is expediting the process after he and EDC came to an "understanding." EDC already operates 2 geothermal plants on the slopes of Mt.Apo. Located in the municipality's Barangay Ilomavis within the PAMB (Protected Area Management Bureau) enclosure. Most of Mt. Apo, the nation's highest peak, is included in the PAMB.

EDC ran afoul of Mayor Ganutuamgco and virtually the entire LGU when it was granted a full exemption on real property taxes. Taxes generated by the 2 existing plants had been used to pay the salaries of 189 public school teachers via the city's SEF (Special Education Fund) and the sudden issuance of the exemption created bedlam. The Mayor and EDC came to a compromise where the corporation will pay 48 Million Pesos (close to 1 Million US), the amount that had been lost to the city since the exemption was granted. Of this amount roughly 1.9 Million Pesos (36,000 US Dollars) will be paid directly into the SEF, ergo pay the salaries of those 189 teachers. EDC has guaranteed the city those salaries for 36 months.

Throwing a potential wrench into the arrangement is the Mayor's arch nemesis, Vice Mayor Joseph Evangelista says that the Mayor's "deal" is far from a sure thing and is examining the issue extremely closely. Furthermore he says, he's talking with COTELLO (Cotabato Electric Corporation) about feeding off the proposed plant IF it ends up being built. EDC is eyeing December, 2014 as the timeframe for going on line.

Speaking of new power plants, on March 01, 2011 the Davao City Council passed the Resolution endorsing Aboitz Power Corporation's proposed 300 megawatt coal fired power plant slated for Barangay Binugan in Toril District despite vehement opposition from the local population and much of that barangay's government. The Council's endorsement is crucial though its passing was a sure thing ever since Vice Mayor Rodrigo"Roddy"Duterte reversed his early opposition to the plant after taking part in an Aboitz junket to a coal fed plant in Misamis Oriental. The 232 megawatt coal fired plant owned by Steag State Power Villanueva impressed Duterte, supposedly, with its low noise and emissions.

The plant has a projected cost of 25 Billion Pesos and will represent the biggest single investment ever made in the Davao Region. This factor certainly makes it an attractive proposition to many in the LGU (Local Govt. Unit aka barangay, town, city and provincial governments) but few seem capable, or perhaps willing to listen and understanding that this investment will not trickle down. It only benefits Aboitz share holders. Now that it rolled through the City Council it gets passed onto the Council's Committee on Energy, Transport and Communications chaired by Councillor Pilar C. Braga. Assuming the Committee passes it, and of course it will, it gets tossed back to the City Council for a 2nd Reading.

Aboitz President and CEO Erramon I. Aboitz says that if he gets his paperwork finished on time that he expects the plant to be online by the middle of 2014. Currently Aboitz subsidiary Therma South Inc, the entity actually handling this project os keeping itself busy trying to pull the wool over peoples' eyes, I mean "handling public relations." I mean, everyoneknows giant smokestacks emitting coal emissions don't harm the environment, and people? Naaaaaah.

In other news:

Sun Cellular has vowed to put up an additional 500 cellular sites on mainland Mindanao and Sulu. At a Zamboamga City press conference on March 11 it unveiled its "Sun Magic Zone Mindanao," a discount for customers only in Mindanao. The 500 new sites will double the islands sites to 1,000.

A local journalist has been slapped with a Libel charge over a piece in which he discussed problems in the issuance of 10 timber permits, within a particular official's AOR (Area of Responsibility). The reporter, Edgardo Maliza of the "Gold Star" based in Cagayan del Oro City in Misamis Oriental Province was arrested earler this month on charges fired by a former DENR (Department of Energy and Natural Resources) Regional Director Ernesto Adobo Jr. The article merely discussed 10 very problematic permits issued under Adobo's watch. Sadly integrity isn't a big thing in the Philippines. Passing the buck is a well enshrined way of life and with officials like Adobo such a horrid system is assured of a long life. Luckily for the people and resource of Northern Mindanao Adobo is now out to pasture. Maliza on the other hand had to be bailed out of jail on a 10,000 Peso Bond (230 US). Though foreigners may find that a trivial amount is the MONTHLY salary of a middle class white collar worker in the Philippines.

This arrest comes as Maliza's colleague, fellow Gold Star scribe Edwin Iyo began getting death threats. Iyo had been investigating extortion and bribery in the Gingoog City CENRO branch (Community Energy and Natural Resources Office). Logging is big business here, especially the illegal side and people are killed over it ever few weeks.

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