|Dr. Melchora Ambalong|
DIE HARD III
The Daily Tribune
AT THE much-ballyhooed power summit convened by the Aquino III government in Davao last week, the clamor of Mindanao's leaders and people's organizations was brilliantly echoed in the voice of Menchie Ambalong of the Mindanao Commission on Women who, as reported, reasoned that government's alleged inefficiency "should not be an issue because Agus-Pulangi earn(s) P7 billion a year," eliciting immense applause from the summit's 350 delegates.
In contrast, the audience turned silent when BS Aquino III, the supposed president of the republic, spoke and insisted that government was inefficient in the operation of the plants, saying, "We know for a fact that the government is inefficient in operating the Agus-Pulangi and other assets and the debts that resulted from that inefficiency were even bigger than the national budget..."
Supporting Ambalong's view, the president of the Confederation of Provincial Governors, City Mayors and Municipal Mayors League, Davao del Norte Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario, for his part, said, "In Mindanao cheap hydropower is the only incentive that could attract investors and drive commerce and development... Let's shatter the myth that the NAPOCOR (National Power Corp.) and the Agus-Pulangi complex are all losing propositions," adding that the state-owned power company earned P73.2 billion at P2 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from 2003 to 2011.
That's really telling President Noynoy Aquino that he's either an idiot -- for being oblivious to the fact that Agus-Pulangi is a huge earner -- or that he's simply parroting a deliberate lie of the power pirates and privateers to deceive the people. Besides, if PeNoy's finger were to persist in pointing to government as inefficient, he might soon be surprised to see where his thumb is actually aimed at.
In a presidential republic, a president is both chief executive and head of state, representing therefore the entirety of government. This is a universal understanding. As Wikipedia puts it, "In presidential republics the head of government may be the same person as the head of state who is often called...a president..."
Now, if President BS Aquino III says the government has been inefficient in Agus-Pulangi's operations, isn't he actually saying that he himself was (and is) inefficient as head of the very government in charge of everything in the country since his proclamation in June of 2010? And given that he seems to show a great disdain for "inefficiency," castigating "government" for being inefficient, can he apply that standard to himself as head of government?
Such inanity was what BS Aquino III made the 350 delegates suffer while they wriggled in their seats with a great deal of difficulty out of holding back their rage.
Jojo Borja, this column's man-on-the-scene at the summit, called us afterward, admitting that he held back and spoke only very briefly on the floor, fearing that he may spill his raging gut and give BSA III a tongue-lashing for the incredibly twisted perspective the head of government displayed.
BSA III had such incongruent statements on Agus-Pulangi that he actually asked Mindanaoans: "You insist on operating it? So who would spend for the rehabilitation?"
The Agus-Pulangi rehabilitation that would restore the complex to full capacity was estimated by NAPOCOR to cost anywhere between P2 to P3 billion. Is PeNoy saying that a head of government with a P1.816 trillion national budget for 2012 cannot find a relatively paltry amount to avoid the losses that are 20 to 30 times greater?
As we can see in this Mindanao Gold Star Daily report on the impact of the crisis, "Estimated economic losses using the ratio of Gross National Product (GNP) to the total kWh sold (P144 per kWh in 2010 multiplied by the 430 million unserved kWh in 2010) translates to P62 billion in economic losses for Mindanao. In Cagayan de Oro and the towns of Tagoloan, Villanueva, and Jasaan in Misamis Oriental, the reported total unserved energy of 15.6 million kWh translates to some P2.2 billion in economic losses. Hardest hit during the 2010 crisis were member companies of the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Industries (COCI) with some suffering as much as a 50-percent drop in production due to the power curtailment."
As there is yet no current estimate on how much Mindanao's economy has bled from this continuing crisis, the above report lays a clear basis for believing the losses until May this year will reach P62 billion or likely even more.
But, as BSA III remains undeterred, he even found the gumption to lecture Mindanaoans "to pay a real price for a real service," stressing that they are left with "only two choices: pay a little more for energy or live with the (rolling blackouts)."
Considering that even if the "blended" generation rate (a cost mix of the nearly cost free hydroelectric power and the up to P14/kWh rate of independent power producers or IPPs), when added to the distribution cost, would approximate Cagayan de Oro's rates today of around P7.50/kWh (the price preferred by Sen. Serge Osmeña and the Energy Department), that would still be $0.11/kWh -- higher than Hong Kong's $0.14/kWh, Kuala Lumpur's $0.11/kWh, Shenzhen and Jakarta's $0.10/kWh, or Shanghai and New Delhi's $0.09/kWh. Comparing such figures from JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) where the Philippines' nationwide average price already tops the list at $0.23/kWh, that ranking will shoot up even more once Mindanao accepts PeNoy's higher rates.
And so we ask: In the face of such burdens, are Filipinos (whether from Luzon, Visayas, or perhaps Mindanao soon) who are being made to pay the highest power rates in Asia, still the ones whom Serge Osmena brands as "going to be in trouble because (they've) been spoiled?" What the hell!
Perhaps the ultimate question ought to be: Why are PeNoy and Serge spoiling the power oligarchs? And, since the Palace occupant hates the "inefficient" government so much, may we also ask: Why are you still there?
(Tune in to 1098AM, dwAD, Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m.; watch Destiny Cable GNN's HTL edition of Talk News TV, Saturdays, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11:15 p.m., on "Fuel price crisis: Solutions" with consumer advocate Dr. Amanda Cruz and Wilson Fortaleza of FDC; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)