Philippines: Energy crisis threatens General Santos mayor’s grip on power
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Philippines: Energy crisis threatens General Santos mayor’s grip on power

Antonino family’s failure to face up to power crisis could cost them dear in upcoming election

For the first time since they began to hold political fort in General Santos City in the southern Philippines in 1992, the Antoninos have never felt so threatened and so in danger of losing their once impregnable political fiefdom than they are now. So much so that they have put a spin on everything that the opposition is throwing at them.

The biggest of course is the recent and unexpected visit of President Benigno Aquino III who was here to again make a plug for his senatorial slate.  The president, however, took more time to show support for re-electionist Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio rather than his senatorial bets.

Going house to house with Antonino-Custodio and devoting more than half of his speech at the indoor rally to urge the audience to give her another mandate are not-so-subtle signs of troubles for the  mayor. T

The communications team of the city mayor gave their own spin on the presidential visit by praising Antonino-Custodio for being so lucky to have the president on her side.  And for the unprecedented presidential endorsement she is getting in this part of the southcentral Mindanao region.

For added punctuation, the Antoninos are now marshaling their forces and allies to deflect the blame for the crippling power outages that has been directed at the mayor, right or wrongly.

But the opposition has now found even more munitions against them after the business community seemingly parroted the line of the Antoninos blaming Socoteco II for the city’s power shortage woes during a hastily organized press conference by the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Friday last week.

The normally sober and conservative business community suddenly became vociferous and combative, even disowning some of their own in calling for the “retirement” Socoteco II manager Rodoflo Ocat and then withdrawing support for its Board of Directors.  But instead of unifying the city’s disenchanted community, they only fanned the flame of discontent.  So much so that some of their board of directors are said to be contemplating resignation over the way the press statement “was rammed down their throats.”

To illustrate how the power issue is hurting the core in the Antonino campaign to have Darlene re-elected and prevent her lone opponent Ronnel Rivera from seizing city hall, the usually media-aloof Antoninos have lately been reaching out to the press and called a press conference Wednesday to yet again tackle the power crisis that is bringing the city to a standstill.

To their credit, the Antoninos have now realized that they were mistaken when they nonchalantly dismissed the power crisis criticism aimed them. They have finally found stop-gap measures to address the 7-hour daily brownout that is causing serious discontent among the city’s residents.

The city mayor’s mother, Mindanao Development Authority chair Lualhati Antonino, had always insisted that the power crisis facing Mindanao was artificial and orchestrated to allow the entry of fossil-fired power plants.  She now concedes that the power crisis is real and that industry players who raised the red flags six years ago were right after all.  And that the power plant project of the Sarangani Energy Corporation in Maasim, Sarangani they once loudly opposed is now, in fact, a strategic solution to the city’s power shortage woes.

Whether they have made a timely adjustment or have come to realization too much too late, we will know in less than two weeks.

If there is one singular issue that will sink or swim with the Antoninos, it is power – the commodity kind.

But is it not ironic that the power issue could topple them out of power?

Has Olympus begun to fall?