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‘Spreading’ power outages worry solons

May 5, 2023 PS Jun M. Sarmiento 207 views

SENATORS urged the need to address the power problem in Western Visayas, which is now “spreading” to other parts of the country and will affect livelihood in many areas.

Senator Grace Poe bewailed the economic losses to businesses and tourism in Panay and Negros Islands, including Iloilo province, due to recurring power outages.

“Talagang nakakagalit at nakakalungkot itong nangyayari,” the chairperson of the Senate committee on public services said.

“Sa panahong ito, pa’no mabubuhay ang turismo at negosyo sa Iloilo at Panay Island kung patay-sindi ang kuryente?” Poe said.

The senator lamented she has been receiving complaints from various groups and residents of the provinces about the drawn-out brownouts, which have caused distress and disturbance to businesses and homes.

For the past six months, the said Visayas provinces have been enduring unannounced power interruptions or blackouts that would last for a whole day.

“Napakainit ngayon para mawalan ng kuryente at saka ang Iloilo pa naman napakaganda ng improvements. Marami nang pumupunta dyan na mga turista,” Poe said.

“Hindi naman puwede na ganyan ang serbisyo ng kuryente. Nakakaapekto rin ito sa mga estudyante dahil mahirap mag-aral kung para kang nasa loob ng pugon. Sa ating mga magsasaka naman, pa’no aandar ang mga mekanismo nila sa bukid kung walang kuryente? Malaking perwisyo talaga ito,” she added.

Poe said she also received reports about an elderly who had an asthma attack due to heat but could not avail of PhilHealth benefits because her records were not updated.

She said this and similar issues should be fixed to allow members to avail of the services of the government.

Poe recently filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 579, calling for an inquiry into the Panay Island power outages and seeking a solution to finally end the residents’ woes.

Poe said there is a need to find out the cause of the grid disturbances reported by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), allegedly due to the tripping of distribution utilities (DUs).

The DUs, meanwhile, have pointed to the NGCP as “the origin” of the problem.

“Maraming isyu ang NGCP. Hindi lamang ang kanilang serbisyo kundi pati pagmamay-ari at pamamalakad niyan. Kailangan ayusin ‘yan ng NGCP,” Poe said.

The same concern was raised by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, insisting that the government must swiftly address the rising number of power outages not only in the Visayas but in many parts of the country.

Hontiveros called on top energy officials to explain why Filipinos are experiencing service interruptions despite assurances last year that the nation’s power supply would be stable in 2023.

The statement came after the islands of Guimaras, Panay, and Negros were hit by a series of blackouts last week – the latest of power woes affecting the Visayas grid.

In Luzon, areas such as Occidental Mindoro have been enduring weeks of power outages – some of which have lasted as long as 20 hours per day – and the Manila International Airport itself suffered a power interruption that disrupted dozens of flights.

According to Hontiveros, the nation’s top energy officials should explain why a “nationwide power crisis” appears to be looming despite many assurances last year that the country’s power supply was not in danger. “During the 2023 budget deliberations in the Senate last October, we were told that the power supply would remain sufficient and stable for this year and that regulatory issues pertaining to high rates were being addressed. Anyare na?” Hontiveros asked.

The senator said that she will support any new probe by the Senate Committee on Energy on the ongoing power woes across the country, along with her own proposed measures and resolutions aimed at lowering power costs for consumers, such as decreasing the recoverable rates on the cost of capital or WACC (transmission and distribution), removing VAT on system loss, optimal use of energy mix, and financing renewable energy use in the social housing sector.