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MINDANAO POWER CRISIS | Alsons sets $1.35-billion 5-year capex for new power plants means BUSINESS

MANILA - The Alcantara Group is eyeing to spend $1.35 billion in the next five years to put up new power plants in Mindanao, which has insufficient electricity supply.

"Our projects already figure up to $450 million until 2016 or 2017. But if the Tampakan is in fact realized, then we will add it to the $450 million," Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc (ACRI) chairman Tomas I. Alcantara told reporters last week.

Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI), the private contractor of the $5.2-billion Tampakan copper-gold project, earlier signed up ACRI to build and run a 400-megawatt open-cycle gas turbine and coal-fired power plant by 2017.

The power plant, which is estimated to cost $900 million, will be used solely for the Tampakan mine.

"The mine itself is under technical development. They are still working on the mining site. But today we are working on the technical study for the power plant," Alcantara said.

Besides the Tampakan plant, ACRI is also putting up a 105-megawatt coal plant and a 16.7-megawatt hydro plant in Sarangani, as well as a 105-megawatt coal plant in Zamboanga by 2016.

All of the planned facilities be funded 60-70 percent through project financing or some other debt and 40-30 percent equity, "depending on the condition of the market and the appetite of the equities market for additional power projects," Alcantara said.

All of ACRI's power plants, which have a total power generating capacity of 253 megawatts, are in Mindanao. The region has been suffering from persistent power outages as a result of insufficient generating capacity.

ACRI's power facilities include subsidiary Western Mindanao Power Corp's 100-megawatt diesel plant in Zamboanga City, Southern Philippines Power Corp's 55-megawatt diesel plant in Sarangani province, and Mapalad Power Corp's 98-megawatt diesel plant in Iligan City.

“With two plants going up in Sarangani and Zamboanga, we are looking forward to generate an aggregate of 463 megawatts –- more than one-fourth of the Department of Energy’s projected 2016 Mindanao peak power demand of 1,829 megawatts,” Alcantara said.  

Both coal plants have a provision for another 105-megawatt expansion; while the hydro plant, if successful, will open the door for similar projects for the company outside of Mindanao. 

"We are earning our stripes there, so if we are able to do that we are looking at possible projects in Negros. But that would be, I would say, three to four years from now," Alcantara said.