Alarmed over the increasing number of private developers of hydro-energy being given “water rights” and hydro service contracts in these uplands, the Cordillera Region Electric Cooperatives Association (CRECA) has asked the Department of Energy to give them the avenue to challenge these in accordance with benefits being offered by these companies vis-a-vis those of cooperatives. .
In Resolution 2017-07, the CRECA is calling on the DOE to allow them “to challenge holder(s) of existing hydro-service contracts provided the electric cooperatives can provide greater benefit to the local community and will reduce the cost of electricity to member-consumers”.
The resolution was adopted during the CRECA meeting last July 28 by representatives of the electric cooperatives of Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Kalinga and Apayao which have rich water/river resources conducive for hydroelectric plant development and are collectively called the watershed cradle of Northern Luzon.
CRECA asked the DOE to allow electric coopweratives “to challenge holders of existing hydroelectric power service contracts provided the aforecited grounds are present and opportunity to ownminihydro power plants at no cost will be offered to the local communities”.
The resolution pointed out that, based on financial studies, CRECA members “will be able to provide much greater benefit to the local community as compared to the offers by the private developers in the region”.
“”CRECA likewise is the only EC developer offering thelocal community the opportunity to own 50 percent minihydro power plants after the 25th year of cooperation without any monetary contribution from the local community, of which will translate to substantial revenue to the local community in the future”.
A local case in point is the agreement between the Benguet Electric Cooperative wherein the host town of Buguias will co-own the three-megawatt Man-asok hydroelectric plant being built at Sebang, Buguias to the tune of P451, 143,461.
The project fact sheet noted that the hydroplant will be 50 percent owned by Beneco and 50 percent owned by the Buguias local government unit on the 26th year until the life of the mini-hydroelectric plant.
Furthermore, the CRECA resolution noted that “fifnancial studies rvealed that only electric cooperative developers, being non-stock, non-profit entities, have the power to lower the generation cost in their respective franchise area to as low as P1.50/kWh once the loans are fully paid within 10-12 years of operation of which cheap cost of power will ultimately benefit the member-consumers and spur development in the local community because of the residual disposable income as a result of paying less electricity bill”.
Private hydroelectric power developers, however, have already obtained “water rights” from the National Water Resources Board over most of the rivers in the Cordillera.
In view of these, volunteers pushing for autonomy in the Cordillera are asking the Regional Developmetn to ask the Department of Energy and the National Water Resources Board to stop issuing permits and water rights over these river resouces so that the region could eventually develop them for its own development as a basic right of an autonomous region. /Ramon Dacawi.