COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Different sectors in North Cotabatoare planning to stage a “day of mourning” to show their indignation over the worsening power crisis in the province and in other parts of Mindanao.

Kidapawan City administrator Rodulfo Cabiles told Catholic radio station dxND they are expecting thousands to join the protest action anytime before the end of April.

The Cotabato Electric Cooperative, the power utility serving all 17 towns of North Cotabato, earlier said it had no choice but to ration power in the province due to lack of supply from the state-run hydroelectric plants in Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon.

“We have six to eight hours of rotating blackouts in Kidapawan City and surrounding towns and because of it the economy has been declining,” Cabiles said.

The Kidapawan City council earlier threatened to sue the National Power Corp. (Napocor) for disregarding public clamor to allocate 25 percent of the electricity generated by two geothermal power plants located in the city.

The two geothermal plants, operating for almost two decades now, are located at the foot of Mt. Apo in Barangay Ilomavis, a hinterland district in Kidapawan City.

However, the electricity being supplied by Napocor to Kidapawan City and surrounding towns, through the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco), comes from the hydroelectric plants in Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon.

Kidapawan City Vice Mayor Joseph Evangelista said Napocor’s reluctance to allocate 25 percent of the power generated by the two geothermal plants to the city and 17 North Cotabato towns is a serious infraction of a 20-year-old agreement obliging the power firm to supply the province with enough electricity from the two facilities.

Evangelista was apparently referring to the memorandum of agreement between the province and Napocor, crafted before the two geothermal plants were built in the 1980s, to ensure that local consumers would benefit, “first and foremost,” from the geothermal resources to be tapped from Mt. Apo.

Evangelista said the city council is now preparing a petition for a writ from the court to compel the Napocor to abide by its obligation to supply Kidapawan City and the entire North Cotabato with 25 percent of the total power output generated by the two power plants.

“We are to wage a legal battle against the Napocor. The power crisis now being experienced in North Cotabato is already very serious. It has been damaging the local economy,” Evangelista said.

The city council is also seeking President Aquino’s intervention through the immediate implementation of Section 6.2 of the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 7638, or the Department of Energy Act of 1992.

Evangelista said RA 7638 has a clear provision mandating energy-generating facilities to allocate 25 percent of their production to consumers in host towns and provinces.

The two geothermal plants at Mt. Apo generate at least 104 megawatts, according to local officials.

Cotelco, meanwhile, will procure power from Therma Marine Inc. of the Aboitiz group of companies, but only for consumers in the first district of North Cotabato.

A Cotelco engineer, Joel Tordesillas, said Therma Marine can allocate at least eight MW for the first district towns of Pigcawayan, Alamada, Libungan, Aleosan, Midsayap, and Pikit.

“It will not totally address our power problems, but the number of hours without electricity in the six towns will be reduced,” Tordesillas said.

He said Therma Marine will start supplying the area with eight MW on April 26. - By John Unson (Philstar News Service,