But Energy Undersecretary Zenaida U. Monsada said that Congress must ensure that the government is ready to provide subsidies for operations if the facilities are to remain under state control.
Two bills approved by the House Committee on Energy seek to retain the two power generators in the southernmost part of the Philippines as state-owned, with one bill seeking to create a separate Mindanao Power Corp. (MINPOCOR) to run the facility.
Keeping the Agus-Pulangui hydrocomplexes state-owned was also included as one of three proposed amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, which was finalized by the panel on June 9.
“We support that, but what’s questionable there which is with Congress is if they will subsidize it,” Ms. Monsada said in a recent interview on the sidelines of an energy forum for legislators.
The Agus and Pulangui hydroelectric plants supply more than half of the power needs in Mindanao, a region that has experienced constant blackouts due to lack of power reserves.
Since the EPIRA was signed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, all assets owned by the National Power Corp. were put on the auction block for privatization. But the Energy department has since decided to postpone the sale of the Agus-Pulangui hydroplants.
Once created, the MINPOCOR will serve as a nonprofit government corporation, and is given the power of “reasonable” rate fixing and pro-rata allocation for local electric cooperatives and distribution units, with the goal of keeping power rates low.
Also sought for comment, House energy committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali (Oriental Mindoro, 2nd district) said he is unsure whether the bills can still see enactment as these will still have to pass through the legislative mill.
The bills approved by the committee will have to be approved by the House plenary and also by the Senate before it can possibly be forwarded to the President for signing into law.
But in an earlier interview, Senate Energy committee chairman Sergio R. Osmeña III said he sees no need to amend the country’s power sector law, dimming the chances for such changes to prosper. Congress is currently on a six-week break, and will resume on July 27. Sessions will end early February of next year.