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SN AboitizPower revives old glory of Ambuklao dam


Itogon, Benguet -- SN Aboitiz Power successfully launched the 105-MW Ambuklao hydroelectric power plant in Benguet, bringing back to life the oldest and what was once the biggest hydro power facility in East Asia from its 12-year slumber.

After an earlier forma l ceremony involving dignitaries and national government officials, a more traditional launching ceremony was held last Thursday (October 27) following rituals of the Igorot natives of Itogon, Benguet – the host community of the project.

“This day is about partnership and community. We and our partners in this venture have gone along very well and we have a common long-term goal: to be partners and neighbors of choice of our host community,” said Antonio Moraza, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the power generation group of AboitizPower.

Ambuklao, completed in 1956, was once a proud symbol of the country’s engineering prowess and was touted as the biggest in East Asia. Its performance deteriorated, however as the years went by. In the 1990s the historic Baguio earthquake damaged the facility and inadvertently ended Ambuklao’s life.

But AboitizPower and its partner SN Power of Norway saw vast potential in the facility. The partnership won the public bidding to buy Ambuklao and its twin facility Binga – some 19 kilometers downstream the Agno River – from the government at USD 325 million.

The group further spent close to USD300 million in the last three years to rehabilitate the facility, including building  a new water tunnel and the complete replacement of the power turbines, among others.

The result brought back to life the Ambuklao HEPP and increased its capacity from a mere 75 MW when it shutdown in 1990 to the present 105 MW. Binga dam, downstream, was also rehabilitated and improved its capacity from 100 MW to 120 MW.

Both facilities are now delivering renewable energy to the Luzon grid while providing millions worth of projects to the host communities.

Emmanuel Rubio, CEO of SN Aboitiz Power Benguet Inc., said the two facilities are a showcase of how a responsible power company can revive and improve on an old government facility while taking care of the environment and host communities for the benefit of all stakeholders including power consumers.

“These facilities are a product of three years of hard work. We were determined to bring back to life Ambuklao and Binga and its storied history back to life. This is a result of engineering creativity and collaboration,” Emmanuel Rubio, CEO of SN Aboitiz Power Benguet Inc., said.

The host community could not have been happier, as they welcomed SN Aboitiz while expressing their gratitude that the company has lived up to its promises to the community.

Activing Benguet Gov. Cresencio Pacalso admitted the community still harbors the pain of being uprooted from their farms and houses in 1953 when the project started, and for the failed promises of the former managers of the power plant.

But he expressed confidence in SN Aboitiz Power after the company spent significant time and resources to understanding the community and implementing projects, even before the actual start of the hydro plant’s operations. He expressed hope that the company continue to reach out the people of Benguet to eventually ease the pain of the past.

“Thank you for giving hope to our people, our children and those who are employed by the company, assuring them a bright future for them,” Pacaslo said.

Just like in Luzon, AboitizPower is developing both renewable and non-renewable sources of energy in Mindanao to attain the right mix of power that is reliable, sustainable and affordable for consumers.

caption: Officials of SN AboitizPower as well local government officials unveil the tunnel that leads to the power house beneath the Ambuklao dam in Benguet.

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