>KIDAPAWAN CITY – The city’s chief executive here has given the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) the “go signal” to construct another 50-megawatt power plant in Mount Apo, after the firm assured the city government that it will pay some P48 million in unpaid taxes.
Part of the amount, according to the city government, will be used to pay for the salaries of 189 locally hired teachers for three years.
City Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco said the salaries of the teachers, paid under the city’s Special Education Fund, were affected when EDC, the country’s biggest producer of renewable energy, was granted an exemption from paying real property taxes to the local government.
Gantuangco said he has already given the EDC “first priority endorsement”, in an apparent softening of his earlier stance supposedly following talks with EDC officials that resulted in “positive results.”
Of the P48 million, at least P19 million is allotted for payment of salaries of affected teachers.
“While it’s true the EDC was given an exemption from paying real property taxes, we requested the company that they shoulder for 3 years the honoraria of 189 SEF teachers. When that was assured, I gave them a first priority endorsement,” said Gantuangco.
The endorsement, however, has yet to reach the EDC.
Vice Mayor Joseph Evangelista also said the issue is still being studied by the Committee on Energy.
“Before we give the EDC a ‘go signal’, there are still so many important issues and concerns that must be addressed, one of which is the reliability of power supply to the city as host of the geothermal project,” said Evangelista.
Evangelista has already asked the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco), the electric service provider in North Cotabato, to discuss with EDC the possibility of providing the power co-op a steady supply of power from the geothermal plant through the direct purchase power agreement (PPA).
“Are we assured that if there’s energy crisis, we won’t experience [a] series of blackouts just like what we went through last year because of the Mt. Apo geothermal project?” Evangelista asked.
At present, EDC is operating two 50-MW power plants within the Mount Apo reservation.
The additional 50-MW geothermal field and power plant will be located within the borders of Barangay Ilomavis here on the northwest summit of Mount Apo, which comprises an area of 112 hectares.
As to its social endorsement, the EDC has already secured free and prior informed consent from the tribal communities in the area, as well as an endorsement from the local government of Barangay Ilomavis and the Protected Area Management Bureau, according to EDC Mindanao geothermal production field manager Alejandro Catacutan.
The firm has already complied with various requirements by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), such as the environmental compliance certificate, Forest Land Use Agreement, DENR authority for slope stabilization, and special land use permit, he added.
Still ongoing, he said, is the process leading to the endorsement of the city government and the North Cotabato provincial government.
“We’re trying everything to get the endorsements. There’s nothing wrong in this project. From there, the project will take off,” said Catacutan.
He said the commercial operation of the Mount Apo geothermal project 3 will start in December 2014.
“This project will address, in part, the power shortage. This offers a cleaner with low carbon emissions, reliable, and secured power supply; generates local employment; and provide economic benefits to the host community,” said Catacutan.—Malu Cadelina Manar/JMA/JV