Mindanao leaders urge immediate release of P10-B calamity fund
Butuan City (March 15) -- Mindanao leaders on Sunday called on the national government to immediately release the P10-billion calamity funds as the El Nino phenomenon continues to wreak havoc on the power and agriculture sectors in the country, particularly in Mindanao.
El Nino phenomenon severely hit the agriculture and hydroelectric power plants in the region since late January, this year.
Represetatives Rodolfo Plaza (Agusan del Sur), Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City),and Francisco T. Matugas (1st dist., Surigao del Norte), governors and mayors said the calamity fund would be a "big help" to the farmers and the power industry sector.
"We hope that this calamity fund will be released as early as possible," said Matugas.
"I also hope that this calamity fund will be properly distributed," said Plaza.
Rodriguez also called for the creation of a multi-sectoral calamity fund management task force.
The Cagayan de Oro solon said a task force should be created for the purpose of transparency, especially that under the said law, bidding is no longer needed.
"The Church would be involved aside from the business sector in the planning since the task force will be the one to present and explain where the calamity funds go," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez suggested the use of P5.5 billion initial fund to purchase modular generating sets to generate additional capacity of 160 megawatts (MW) in Mindanao.
The lawmaker said that the declaration of a state calamity in the island would address the problem of power deficiency in Mindanao.
"I also asked for additional P4.5 billion funds for immediate assistance to farmers affected by the dry spell in Mindanao," said Rodriguez.
In Northern Mindanao alone, at least 14,000 hectares of agricultural lands were already badly damaged by the dry spell.
Rodriguez also said that the declaration of the state of calamity would also enable local government units to use five percent of their calamity funds to address the power crisis in Mindanao.
Governors Vicente Pimentel (Surigao del Sur), Erlfe John Amante (Agusan del Norte), Oscar Moreno (Misamis Oriental), Khalid Q. Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte), North Cotabato Vice-Gov. Emmanuel Pinol and other governors and mayors in Mindanao also voiced the same tune to address the worsening power problem.
Earlier, the House of Representatives committee on energy, chaired by Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, called for the immediate release of P10 billion in calamity funds shortly after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Mindanao under a state of calamity on Thursday.
This was the resolution of the committee during the public hearing held in Davao City on Thursday where various representatives from the sectors involved in the power crisis in Mindanao attended.
Arroyo placed the national government's calamity fund at P10 billion, of which P5.5 billion were allocated for the power sector and P4.5 billion for agriculture.
During the house hearing, Mindanao legislators also tackled the frequent breakdowns of aging power plants. Hydro power plants are under the control of the National Power Corp. (Napocor).
The people of Mindanao won't just sit by and let the government mess around with billions of pesos in calamity funds needed to address the power outages and the ill effects of drought on the island, said Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) Secretary Jesus G. Dureza.
"The Mindanaoans are suffering and will never forgive anyone who will fool around with the calamity fund at a time of crisis like this," he said.
The best guard against any fund misuse, he said, would be the private sector in Mindanao, who on Friday proposed to Malacaņang an initial importation of 20-megawatt "high-speed" generators.
"There are necessary control systems that can be done. We'd like to invite private sector participation," the head of the MDA said, adding that "the private sector will monitor this. That will be one good mechanism."
Napocor officials on Saturday feared the imminent shutdown of all the power generating plants in the Agus complex as the water level at Lake Lanao had dropped from the normal 701 meters to 698.9 meters.
"Because of the current very low water level, hydroelectric plants might temporarily shut down in a few days from now to avert further damage of its turbines that resulted in wide power curtailment in the island, Napocor officials said.
As a result, Napocor officials and technical engineers had been forced to shut down 11 of the 20 generators at the Agus complex, and only two of the three generating plants at the Pulangi hydropower complex continued to run in Maramag, Bukidnon.
Napocor said this was why power outages had become longer, from 6 hours up to 8 hours and even 12 hours in some areas in the island.
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), in its Sunday advisory, said the grid demand was at 1,447 megawatts while the generated supply was only 903 MW. There is a shortfall of 544 MW in the entire Mindanao, NGCP said, adding that industrial activities in such cities as Davao, Butuan and Cagayan de Oro were fueling the increasing demand. (Muc/PIA-Caraga) [top]