DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Top officials of the country's power sector will be meeting in Davao City, Thursday to thresh out concerns surrounding power transmission and to find long-term solutions to issues on the right-of-way (ROW) and easements of the transmission lines of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in the island-region of Mindanao.

The meeting, to be held at the conference room of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) will also tackle the security incidents that involved more than a dozen transmission towers.

"Through the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC), we will convene the top officials of the power industry's key players in a bid to resolve these problems and mitigate the possible impacts to the grid," said Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, chair of MinDA and co-chair of the MPMC.

Created in July 2012 through Executive Order No. 81, the MPMC is tasked to coordinate the efforts of national and local governments as well as the power industry stakeholders in efforts to improve the power situation in Mindanao.

The Department of Energy (DOE) and MinDA co-chair the committee composed of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the National Electrification Administration (NEA), the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM), the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (AMRECO), the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo), the Mindanao Electric Power Alliance (MEPA) and the NGCP.

Antonino explained that although Mindanao is currently enjoying a steady supply of power for the first time in about 10 years, but the prevailing issues affecting the transmission towers in Mindanao could hamper this positive supply outlook.

"We must immediately address issues on ROW and easements to further prevent unwarranted power disruptions and ensure the steady supply of power in the grid," she said while adding that "the local government units together with the land owners must be willing to cooperate in resolving these issues and in guaranteeing the protection of the transmission towers."

In January this year, NGCP reported that 18 towers experienced security attacks, with the latest incidents involving towers No. 19, 20, 21, 13, 25 and 50 of the Agus 2-Kibawe 138 KV transmission lines. Transmission tower No. 4 of the Baloi-Agus 2 138 KV transmission lines and the transmission tower No. 63 of Kabacan-Sultan Kudarat 138 KV transmission lines also experienced security attacks.

"The recent attacks on towers No. 20 and 25 created a dent in the power supply of Mindanao, which isolated the Agus 1 and 2 hydropower plants that produce about 260 megawatts (MW)," Antonino said.

To date, the two towers have not yet been repaired due to issues of land ownership. The isolation of the hydropower plants has also caused rotational power interruption in different franchise areas in Mindanao. In addition to the attacks, issues on the ROWs and the hesitance of the land owners to cooperate are seen to further aggravate the problem.

Currently, there five lines that are out of operation due to the unwillingness of landowners to cooperate and the growing vegetation under the lines. These include the Baloi-Agus 2 138 kV lines 1 and 2; the Baloi-Agus 6 69 kV line; and the Kibawe-Agus 2 138 kV lines 1 and 2.

"The hesitance of the landowners to cooperate in solving the problem is also becoming a serious drawback as NGCP's personnel cannot enter the area of the damaged towers or lines," Antonino said.

She said transmission problems have dire consequences in Mindanao like isolating power plants from the grid, rotational and island-wide brownouts, and hampering operations of various industries.

Aside from updates on the repair of the transmission lines and towers, the principals' meeting will also discuss mitigation measures, ways forward, immediate solutions, and other initiatives.

"This meeting is crucial as it will allow us to craft plans and initiatives that will mitigate and prevent similar transmission-related problems in the future," she added.

The energy officials will also discuss other issues revolving around the power sector of Mindanao like the contracting of distribution utilities, updates of incoming power projects, the impacts of El Niño to the grid, and the rehabilitation of the Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants, among others.

"The government is doing as much as it can to solve these problems but we also urge the public to help us in our efforts in addressing these by being more vigilant and by reporting suspicious activities in critical areas," she added.

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