KIDAPAWAN CITY -- North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol dismissed claim that the protest action pressing for more power supply was spearheaded by him and his family.

“The protest action made by residents of North Cotabato last Monday pressing for more power supply to the province is not politically-motivated as claimed by an indigenous people's leader. In fact, it was a show of force that yielded positive results for the province,” he said.

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In an interview Thursday, Piñol said it was their "concerted effort that made the mountain come to Mohammad."

Due to Monday's protest, officials of the National Power Corporation from Manila met with Piñol and Representative Bernardo Pinol Jr., along with officials of the province and of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative, to forge a joint communiqué expressing their commitment to solve the power supply problem of the province.

Reports showed that Datu Lucio Serrano, member of the Council of Elders of the Manobo Apao Descendants Ancestral Domain of Mount Apo (Madadma), alleged that the vice governor was behind the mass action led by a group of Manobo natives from Barangay Balabag in Kidapawan City.

The village is claimed by the natives as part of their ancestral domain.

"Some of the natives that I've talked with do not know why they were invited to join the rally. They thought they were going to attend a political rally of the Piñols of North Cotabato," Serrano said.

Serrano is among the claimants of the Certificate of Land Title (CADT) that covers the villages of Balabag and Ilomavis in Kidapawan City and a village in nearby Magpet town in the province.

The natives that held picket rally and barricaded the entrance to the Mindanao Geothermal Production Field of EDC were led by Barangay Balabag chair Datu Eduard Umpan, also a claimant to the CADT.

Umpan, according to Serrano, is a known political ally of Piñol.

Umpan, chair of the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay Balabag and son of Datu Eduard Umpan, admitted that Piñol was supporting them of their protest action.

"We are here waiting for any instructions from Vice Governor Piñol. He supports our move," said Umpan in an interview.

Piñol said their unified action has proven that “the people are mightier than the biggest corporation.”

From 8 to 1

From eight-hour rotational brownout a few weeks ago, the province of North Cotabato's brownout duration will soon be reduced to only 30 minutes up to one hour maximum.

The welcome development was reached after North Cotabato officials met with officials of the National Power Corporation (Napocor) in Kidapawan City Thursday morning.

Vice Governor Piñol described the three-hour meeting as "intense" to the point that the provincial officials reminded the Napocor officials of their promise of a better power supply upon their agreement in hosting the Mt. Apo Geothermal plants.

"Sa aking palagay di sila (Napocor) pwedeng maghugas ng kamay dyan dahil ng dumating sila dito para tayong mga virgins na pinangakuan nila ng langit," Piñol said.

At the end of the meeting, both parties agreed to issue a joint communiqué that stipulates that:

1. On the demand for immediate end to power outages in the province, Napocor will refer the requested additional six megawatts (MW) allocation to the Distribution Management Committee for its consideration

2. Parties agreed that since there are varying interpretations of the provision of the January 23, 1993 memorandum of agreement that states that an independent and distinct power line be established in North Cotabato, they will task their legal panels to study the said provision with the objective of resolving the issue amicably

3. On the demand of the members of the tribal community that holds the CADT to the geothermal area in Mt. Apo for a full disclosure of the sale of the facility to the Energy Development Corporation, both parties agreed that since the privatization of the PNOC-EDCC not being the concern of Napocor, the issue will be referred to the proper body for deliberation and resolution.

Vice Governor Pinol said that though the joint communiqué is not 100 percent sure the power deficiency in their province would end, he said the implied commitment of the Napocor officials is enough for now.

It was learned that the province has an existing 26 MW provision from the National Grid Corporation. But with the additional six MW, the provincial officials said the power outage will remarkably decrease from eight-hour brownouts to only one hour the most.

Napocor officials, who signed the joint communiqué, are marketing head for Mindanao Gil Cesar and IPPCM VisMin operations Candelario Amigable Jr.

Provincial officials who were signatories are Representative Piñol, Vice Governor Pinol, Board Members Romeo Arana, Ronaldo Pader, Edslapel Andie, and Rolando Dillera. Cotelco officials who also signed the joint communiqué were board of director Peter Salac, general manager Alejandro Collados, and OIC general manager PPalma Marino Gornez. (BOT)