MINDANAO ENERGY SUMMIT: VENUE LIKE 'GARRISON' / 5 INJURED IN RALLY RIOT

[PHOTOS ON THIS PAGE COURTESY OF MINDANAO EXAMINER ONLINE]

MANILA, APRIL 14, 2012 (STANDARD) Written by Christine F. Herrera - PSG in full force, eases out local police securing area.

THE Mindanao Power Summit at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City today will be like a garrison with the Presidential Security Group in full force, easing out the local police to secure President Benigno Aquino III and some 200 delegates, Bayan Muna Rep. Joel Virador said Thursday.

“We were told that security will be stringent with the PSG taking over from the commander of the local police... Even the protesters were kept out of the summit,” said Virador, who described the security arrangements and the cordon sanitaire as excessive.

The Palace advised reporters that the venue would be closed one hour before the President arrived and no one would be allowed to leave or enter the summit venue once the President was inside.

Virador said some 200 delegates to the summit would be secured by the PSG, but only two seats were given to civil society groups.

The anti-coal activists belonging to Greenpeace were kept out of the summit, Virador said.

“The main gate where our people plan to hold a rally will be manned by the PSG, so we are negotiating if we could at least hold a peaceful rally at the main gate,” Virador said.

The President will address the summit at noon or at 1 p.m. after a plenary by the stakeholders in the morning to come up with recommendations on how to deal with the energy shortage in Mindanao.

Luwalhati Antonino, chairwoman of the Mindanao Development Authority, met on Thursday with 12 leaders of civil society groups and asked them to spare the President from being embarrassed during the summit and the protest-rallies today, said Virador, now vice chairman of the Kilusang Mayo Uno for Southern Mindanao.

“Please spare the President. We are asking you: do not engage in noyoying,” Virador quoted Antonino as telling them.

Antonino told the civil society groups that the President was discouraged from holding the summit in Mindanao for security reasons, but he insisted he had to meet with the stakeholders in Mindanao.

Virador said Antonino gave the two seats to him representing the KMU and to Sheena Duazo, spokeswoman of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

“The civil society groups were given only two seats. The Network Opposed to Coal led by Juland Suazo and Greenpeace were kept out,” Virador said.

“But inside and outside of the summit we will bring the issues of the urban poor, the workers, farmers, the fishermen, environmentalists, consumers and other multi-sectoral groups in opposing the privatization of the Agus-Pulangui, the anti-coal plant sentiments and the demand against power rate increases,” Virador said.

Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director, said they would not insist on entering the venue but demanded that the President reverse the decision of the Energy Department to grant environmental compliance certificates to coal plant contractors.

“It’s the government’s prerogative if they want to keep us out, but they should listen to what the local communities have to say because they were not consulted,” he said.

“The burden is on President Aquino to prove that the summit is not a setup to railroad and legitimize the questionable approval of coal plants in Mindanao.

“We expect the President to do the right thing by canceling all coal power plants, which the [Energy Department] says are already in the pipeline for Mindanao.”

Antonino told the civil society groups Mindanao’s stakeholders would convene a plenary in the morning Friday to discuss the various issues surrounding the blackouts gripping the island.

Virador said the plenary would come up with several recommendations to be submitted to the President.

He said Antonino had told them it was the Palace that screened the list of some 200 stakeholders that would be attending the power summit.

“The consumers are definitely outnumbered. Of the 200 delegates, only two seats were given to the civil society groups,” Virador said.

He said they were hoping that lawmakers like Agham Rep. Angelo Palmones and Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño would echo the public’s sentiment.

Casiño said he would ask the summit to scrap the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

Palmones said he would insist that the summit come up with measures to cushion the impact of the government’s decision to tap power barges and diesel plants, which would increase power rates.

Palmones earlier accused the government of using “artificial” blackouts to force Mindanao’s residents to accept a plan to sell off the Agus-Pulangui hydropower plants to private companies.

He said he feared that once those were privatized, power rates would shoot up again.

On Thursday, the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association urged the government to pursue the Leyte-Mindanao interconnection project, create a spot market, and build more base-load power facilities to solve the power shortage in Mindanao.

The association’s president, Ernesto Pangtangco, said the interconnection project would ensure the delivery of excess power from Luzon and the Visayas to Mindanao while reducing the need to build more base-load power plants.

“We think the long-term solution to Mindanao is really to have an interconnection between Leyte and Mindanao, such that the reserve requirement of Mindanao can be shared with the Visayas similar to Visayas and Luzon,” he said.

He said the Leyte-Mindanao interconnection would add an estimated 15 to 18 centavos per kilowatt hour to power consumers, but it will be advantageous to consumers in the long term. With Alena Mae S. Flores

(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/April/13)

FROM THE MINDANAO EXAMINER

[Photos by the Kilab Multimedia show policemen as they break a rally by progressive groups which gathered outside the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City in the southern Philippines on Friday, April 13, 2012 during the Mindanao Energy Summit. They protesters are opposing the privatization of the Angus-Pulangi hydroelectric power plants and the increase in electricity rates, and called for the repeal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act. And photo released by the Mindanao Development Authority shows President Benigno Aquino as he confers with Energy Secretary Rene Almendras during the Mindanao Energy Summit held in Davao City.]

Police break rally at Mindanao Energy Summit in Davao City Posted by The Mindanao Examiner at Friday, April 13, 2012 

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 13, 2012) – At least 5 people were injured Friday after policemen forcibly dispersed a huge group of rallyists who were protesting in front of a hotel in Davao City where President Benigno Aquino spoke at the Mindanao Energy Summit.

Cherry Orendain, spokesperson for the Anakbayan and Kabataan progressive groups, said policemen, armed with truncheon, broke the peaceful rally. Most of those injured were leaders of various groups.

“Members of the Davao City Police violently dealt with our leaders and we will file charges of physical injuries against them,” she said, adding two of the victims - Rendell Ryan Cagula, the Kabataan Party list regional coordinator; and Michael Lim, of Anakbayan, were both punched in the body by police officers.

“We condemn the brutality exerted by the police among our leaders and members. There is nothing wrong in airing out our opposition to the looming power rate increase because of President Aquino’s furtherance of the sell out of the energy industry,” Orendain said.

“Compared to their truncheons and shield, we only have our voices of opposition. Physically we have no stand against their weapons. If the youth chooses to keep silent on peoples’ issues, who else will stand for our country’s patrimony and sovereignty? The youth should be critical and ready to fight for what is for the good of the majority and oppressed,” she added.

The Summit was held to discuss solutions to the current power crisis in Mindanao where many areas are suffering from up to 8 hours of blackout every day due to acute shortage of electricity.

The rallyists said the power crisis is “artificial” to give further justification to the privatization of power sources.

Aquino said he would release some P2.6 billion for the rehabilitation of the hydro-power plants in Mindanao.

“These are costs all of us must share. And your administration is doing its part. We are putting our money where our mouth is. We are setting aside almost P2.6 billion for the large-scale rehabilitation of Agus 6, which has been neglected for the past 59 years. This is a plant that was designed to operate for only thirty years, and yet we have used it for twice as long. This rehabilitation is long overdue,” he said.

The Department of Energy also instructed the National Power Corporation to come up with full study on how much and how long it will take to rehabilitate the Agus and Pulangi hydro-power facilities to reach its installed capacity.

‎”We are not without fault. We failed in executing our plans. This is not the President's failure,” said Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.

Peace advocate Father Angel Calvo called on political leaders to be honest. “While our leaders are talking and promising once more the solutions of all problems, businesses deteriorate and the people suffer the damage of hours without electricity. Be honest political leaders,” he said.

Jorge Madlos, spokesman for the National Democratic Front in Mindanao, said the Aquino government, despite of its intention to resolve the crisis, can and will never have the rightful solution to the situation in the southern Philippines because it cannot defy the dictates of power and oil companies.

“A power industry that is not truly owned and controlled by the people will only serve the interest of giant monopolies to gain profit, and not to deliver genuine social service. Thanks to Ramos’ Electric Power Industry Reform Act, Mindanao’s power industry is now under the control of private companies, such as the Sy, Aboitiz, Alcantara-Dominguez, and Lopez groups – all of which have their imperialist counterparts.”

“They have control over the generation and distribution of power in the island. The obviously contrived power shortage in the island works in favour of satisfying the insatiable lust of these groups for profit, at the very expense of the people,” he said.

He said even if alternative sources of energy, such as wind, solar or hydro-power are tapped, these too will also be subjected to the monopolistic control of big foreign capitalists.

Madlos said Henry Sy, the country’s wealthiest man and owner of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, is seen to make a killing “in his obsession to completely monopolize the entire power industry in the island.”

“Sy, through the NGCP, can dominate power generation, transmission and distribution, and even take over in the retailing of electricity, thereby spelling the eventual nullity of electric cooperatives,” he said.

Madlos, said their part, the NDFP in Mindanao, is pushing for the establishment of a pro-people power industry based on genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, which can only be possible under a truly independent and sovereign people’s democratic government.

“It aims to fully tap the potentials of other safe and renewable energy sources that will benefit the people, and not the whims of the monopolistic, exploitative and oppressive few,” he said. “Let us militantly demand for a power industry that will uncompromisingly serve the interest of the people, and not of the imperialists and its big bourgeois comprador cohorts.” (Mindanao Examiner)


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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