Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Rival firms in tug-of-war over giant Ecija dam project
GENERAL TINIO, Nueva Ecija, March 23, 2011-The First Gen Corp., the power generation arm of the Lopez group, is locked up in a bitter tug-of-war with a rival company over the proposed billion-peso Balintingon Reservoir Multi-Purpose Project (BRMPP) in this town, with the latter threatening to hale the former to court for allegedly entering into an agreement with parties without consulting the Department of Agriculture and the National Irrigation Administration.
Officials of Concord Pacific Investment Holdings Ltd. Inc. (CPIHLI) said that they would file a petition for a Temporary Restraining Order before the Supreme Court to stop First Gen Luzon Power Corp. (FGLPC), a wholly owned subsidiary of FGC, from conducting a feasibility study on the BRMPP.
This is after the FGLPC First Gen chairman and chief executive officer Federico Lopez signed a memorandum of agreement with the provincial government of Nueva Ecija and the municipal government of Gen. Tinio for the development, construction and operation of a new reservoir and hydroelectric power plant in this town.
The MOA-signing, which was graced by Gov. Aurelio Umali and Gen. Tinio Mayor Virgilio Bote, was sealed sometime this month.
In a statement, Lopez said that they have taken interest in the Balintingon project because of its potentially far-reaching contributions to the development not only of Nueva Ecija and Gen. Tinio but also of the entire country.
Once completed, Lopez said that the project is envisioned to provide year-round irrigation to 15,000 hectares of farmlands and provide livelihood to over 9,000 farming families and fisherfolks in Central Luzon apart from generating additional megawatts of power in the Luzon grid.
Umali hailed the partnership as a model that should be replicated on a national scale where private investors that possess the required financial and technical capabilities and track record could be tapped to undertake massive infrastructure projects without having to draw from government resources.
But Jose Utrillo, CPIHLI president and chief operations officer, told newsmen that their firm is the “legal proponent” of the BRMPP and has a “live contract” with the NIA to conduct a feasibility study on the project. He described First Gen’s entry into the picture as “disturbing.”
He questioned the agreement forged by First Gen, saying it was mere propaganda. “First Gen did not even mention when and where the agreement with the provincial and municipal governments was signed. To me, it’s just a press release,” he said.
He said it was highly questionable that the Lopez firm would act on pursuing a multi-billion peso irrigation project without coordinating with the NIA whose mandate is irrigation, and the DA.
In a letter to NIA Administrator Antonio Nangel, Utrillo said his firm is already on its final stage of its full-blown study on the project which it promised to submit to the agency within this month.
He assured Nangel that despite the distractions caused by First Gen, his firm will be focused on the realization of the project.
Asked if his company would go to the SC to decide the matter, Utrillo replied: “It would definitely go into that,” he said, adding a legal team has been conferring with him on what legal remedies to take to stop First Gen from pursuing the project.
“We will be using all legal remedies to protect our interests,” he said. (Jason de Asis)
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