Orlando R. Ravanera

His Excellency President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is correct when he said that water is a means to life and must not be commercialized or be a means of raking profits by the rich.  This truism also applies to electricity because without it, life will be very difficult and development cannot be had. This was then in the mindset of our congressmen and senators in the late 60s when they were discussing on how to provide electricity in the rural areas initiated then by no less than Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez as electricity then was just confined in the cities. So that electricity should not be a means of so much rakings by the corporate entities, it must be done the cooperative way, meaning, it must be member-owned.

Thus, 119 Electric Cooperatives loomed throughout the country to be owned and managed by the MCOs (member-consumer-owners). But all these years, these so-called electric cooperatives are cooperatives only in name.

` If such has been the case on electric distribution which is controlled by the oligarchs, it is the vision of the cooperatives that somehow such should not be the case in electricity generation – thus, their advocacy to own and manage the Agus Pulangi Power Hydro Power Complex.

They attended Regional Power Summits and they came by the thousands to support  the cooperative advocacy to own and manage the Agus Pulangi Hydro-Power Complex. And right-fully so.

They asked, Why must Mindanawons suffer power short-ages when the island oozes with watersheds that can generate enough hydro-electric power for the people? They contended that the reason for these shortages is that the existing hydro generation plants have not been well maintained, thus, not optimized. Because of this , six coal-fired power plants will be established in different regions of Mindanao which are already banned in other countries as “coal burning power plants are making people sick and shortening their lives- thousands of them.”

“Burning coal is leading cause of smog, acid rain and global warming,” the Union of concerned Scientists said. That “in an average year, a typical  coal plant generates 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the primary human cause of global warming as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million of trees; 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain that damages forest, lakes  and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs; and 500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma and premature death; and so many toxic chemicals such as 225 pound arsenic which will cause cancer.”

Well, that is what a typical coal plant can do, typical meaning just around 100 megawatts. The six coal-fired power plants that are being established all over Mindanao have a total megawatts of 2,167. These are not acceptable to the people of Mindanao especially to the 3 million cooperative members who are environmentally conscious.

Those big capitalists and their political cohorts who are putting-up these are saying that coal-fired power plants are clean. That’s oxymoron! NO such thing as clean coal.

Yes, cooperatives in Mindanao are serving notice to one and all that they are collectively opposing the putting-up of coal fired power plants. As a countervailing measure hydro-power plants in Mindanao must be well-maintained and optimized to cater to the increasing needs of power. Yes, they are binding themselves into a One Mindanao Energy Cooperative to own and manage the Agus Pulangi Hydro Power Complex. They are financially capable. But more than that, they are capable of protecting and preserving the watershed from which the power comes from.

In those power summits, I introduced the participants to the Honorable Cong. Ray Umali from Mindoro, a known environmental advocate,  underscoring that many participants came from the cooperatives of our Indigenous People who are living in the forest ecosystem, which is considered the invisible water dam. Our cooperatives are committed to maintain the integrity of these watersheds and if the dams are silted, are willing to do de-siltation. That’s the advantage of cooperativizing these hydro power plants.

We must also understand that there are those which are beyond the commerce of men — power, water, air- because these are means to life. If controlled by a few capitalists, they perpetuate their stranglehold of the economy and perpetuate their massive rakings, knowing that those who control power also control business.

Thus, it must rightfully be owned and managed by the people themselves through their cooperatives so that they can exercise that God-given right of decision making, thus, democratizing wealth and power. In that way, the people will be empowered to have access and control over their resources and utilities. Let us be mindful that poverty in Mindanao is rooted in the powerlessness of the inhabitants to own and manage these resources and utilities which are controlled only by a few elite thus, the exclusivity of growth and development. The call for inclusive growth primarily means that resources and utilities be managed and controlled by the people themselves.

In my sorties around Mindanao during the regional power summits, it was amazing to see an awakened citizenry, showing their collective force and ready to take responsibility. Yes, it is about time to put power where it rightfully belongs, that is, to the people. This time, I am not just talking of political or economic power but electric power!

And there is no choice! It is renewable energy owned and managed by the people through  their cooperatives and never coal-fired power plants which are considered a Curse to the people and the environment! In this light. Let our people Awake!