SMC wants to build 3 power plants in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi
MANILA — San Miguel Corporation plans to build power plants in the Western Mindanao southernmost island chain — an area where lack of economic opportunities have helped banditry and a four-decade-old Muslim insurgency fester.
The SMC plan is in response to the government’s call for greater investments in this region.
In a press briefing, the president of the country’s largest conglomerate unveiled plans to construct three 58-megawatt coal-fired electricity generation plants, one each for the island groups of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
“The first will be a power plant for Jolo, Sulu,” said San Miguel president Ramon Ang, saying the planned power facility would use the latest circulating fluidized bed (CFB) technology to reduce emission and help protect the ecosystem of the islands.
At present, the Sulu archipelago is powered by a 25-MW diesel-fired plant, which is insufficient for providing uninterrupted electricity supply. The lack of stable and affordable power has been cited as one of the reasons for the stunted growth of the economy of Jolo and nearby areas.
According to Ang, electricity in Jolo currently retails at a pricey P15 per kilowatt-hour (kwh), including a subsidy provided by the national government through the National Power Corporation.
“If Napocor agrees to pay that amount to me — something they pay for 25MW — I’ll give them 58MW for the same amount,” he said. “They lose nothing, and gain double to power supply.”
He explained that Napocor and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. have been buying the electricity from Sulu’s generation plant and sell this at subsidized rates to the local cooperative.
“If they give me a 10-year contract, I’ll build a new plant, and even lower prices,” he said. “I’m even willing to sell them electricity as low as P3 per kilowatt-hour.”
The San Miguel chief said he would be willing to duplicate the arrangement for the island of Basilan and the Tawi-Tawi island group, both of which have been powered by expensive diesel-fired plants which have been unable to provide 24-hour supply in many instances.
Basilan has three diesel-powered plants generating a combined 7.4 megawatts versus a peak demand of 8.8MW. Tawi-Tawi, meanwhile, is powered by diesel generators.
“I’ll supply to PSALM or Napocor, and they will supply the cooperatives,” Ang said of the INS proposed scheme, adding that he has started discussions with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who has been advocating the development of impoverished areas of Mindanao.
“Once you have stable power supply here, the economy will improve, the jobs will come, and the peace and order situation will improve,” he said. SFM