KIDAPAWAN CITY -- For hosting one of the country's biggest geothermal plants, the City Government here is demanding a “preferential” treatment from National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

City Vice Mayor Joseph Evangelista, chair of the City Council, said that as host of the Mount Apo geothermal power plant, the city deserves a "special" treatment from the NGCP.

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Evangelista explained that by special treatment, he meant the city be spared from long hours of blackouts as a result of the load shedding the NGCP has been implementing since February 1, when the generation deficiency of the Mindanao power grid continues to decline due to drought.

"It's an irony that we are suffering so much from the series of blackouts, while it's true that we host one of the country's biggest geothermal power plants. We will not just ask but demand from the NGCP that we be given special or preferential treatment. I believe we deserve that," said Evangelista.

He also stressed that the City Government is bent on pursuing the case it filed in 2009 against the NGCP for violating the memorandum of agreement (MOA) it signed in early '90s when the geothermal power project was still being discussed.

Contrary to reports, Evangelista clarified the City Government is not "dumping" the case against the NGCP.

"It's just that the case is still being tried in court here. We have not heard of it after we filed the case in 2009," he said.

In 1994, the NGCP inked an agreement with the then Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), the Cotabato provincial government, and the City Government of Kidapawan that the province be given a separate or direct line from the geothermal plant.

The city, since the NGCP started to shed load from the Mindanao power grid, is experiencing an eight-hour blackout daily.

Power is shut off from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.; 11 a.m., up to 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"The long blackouts are hurting us, the city's economy in particular. We can't afford to see our businesses here suffer so much from these blackouts," he said. (Malu Cadelina Manar)