By Rjay Zuriaga Castor, Jennifer Rendon and Mariela Angella Oladive
How to lose P1.5 billion in 3 days? Let a city endure a power outage.
The city government of Iloilo is facing a potential revenue deficit of P1.5 billion following the massive blackout that has beset Panay Island since January 2, stemming from transmission issues and insufficient power supply from plants.
“Based on rough estimates of the Local Economic Development and Investment Promotion Office (LEDIPO), the City of Iloilo is losing between P400 million to P500 million a day due to the power interruptions and rotational brownout. In three days, we would have lost P1.5 billion,” Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said.
The city’s annual Gross Domestic Product last year was at P145 billion.
“If we divide that by 365 days, the estimated production loss is not less than P400 million per day. That’s really a big deal,” he said.
“Ang P1.5 billion losses na sang tanan (the P1.5 billion is everyone’s loss), kay ti tan-awa, ang flour mill indi ka ubra pila da pirde nila, ang feed mill indi man ka ubra, ang mga bakery wala sang generator nag-untat sila (the flour mill can’t operate, also the feed mill, the bakeries without generators have stopped),” he lamented.
He added: “Kaluluoy ang syudad (I pity the city). We are growing very fast, we are promoting the city. Unfortunately this is really a difficult time nga daw ginhabuyan tubi ang makusog nga pagdevelop sang syudad (the city’s strong development is being dampened).”
Some businesses in the city could recoup their losses but others would have to treat it as it is: a lost income and opportunity.
For small business owners like Christine Ledesma, who operates a coffee shop in Jaro district, the power outage has significantly impacted their income.
Ledesma, who is operating a coffee shop in Jaro district, narrated to Daily Guardian that in the past two days of the power outage, they only generated an income of P3,000 compared to the P18,000-22,000 daily income before the outage.
“We only opened the coffee shop in August this year, and the implication for our business cannot be overstated. Grabe gid ang epekto sa amon as a small business owner because dako gid ang nadula sa amon,” she said.
She added that since they decided to close the shop on Thursday, the power interruption has also affected their employees due to the “no work, no pay” setup.
Ledesma said the prolonged outage is an “eye-opener” for them to find ways to still operate their business despite the power interruptions. On the third day of the power outage, she decided to purchase an electric generator.
“This is an eye-opener for us. Wala man may nag gusto nga matabo ini but we really have to be prepared and vigilant.”
With the power outages, LEDIPO head Velma Jane Lao also stressed that the service sector is also the hardest hit.
“Although residents have trooped to hotels and malls, these establishments have also had to ramp up their expenses on generator sets and fuel. Machines have also bogged down. Restaurants complained of food spoilage,” said LEDIPO head Velma Jane Lao.
Lao said they could not deliver their work well because of the unfavorable working conditions due to the sweltering heat.
“Our productivity is not at the optimum. The power outages also affect internet connection, which could slow down our work,” she said.
Treñas said that the national government told the local government units to process business permits in 10 minutes.
“I ask the national government to give us electricity first. We cannot process the applications and print the permits if we do not have electricity,” he said.
‘CRACK THE WHIP’
The city mayor said energy regulating bodies of the country have to “crack the whip” on the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) amid the power crisis that currently plagues Iloilo City and the rest of Panay Island.
“Crack the whip. Pwersahan niyo na. [To the] Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Department of Energy, and Office of the President make use of your residual powers under your mandate. Presidente ka, secretary ka, chairman ka sang ERC,” he said in an interview with the media.
Treñas’ statements came after an emergency meeting attended by NGCP, Independent Market Operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, power sector stakeholders, and local chief executives affected by the power interruption.
Treñas said NGCP should have already learned from the 3-day power outage in Panay last year, yet the transmission service provider has seemingly not acted upon the recommendations.
“Nakita ta na kung ano ang dapat ubrahon. Nahambal na sang DOE kag ERC kung ano ang dapat ubrahon sang NGCP. Waay nila maubra. Natabo liwat,” he said, emphasizing that the power outage may happen again.
(They already know what should be done. DOE and ERC already said what NGCP should do. But they failed. It happened again.)
“Panan-aw ko nagapdungol lang ang NGCP. Gapadungol gid lang,” he added.
(I think NGCP is just being stubborn. They are hardheaded.)
Meanwhile, the Iloilo provincial government has no estimates yet on the impact of the power blackout on the province’s business and economy as a whole since they have just recently come up with the formula to compute it, according to Governor Arthur Defensor Jr.
The full power restoration is expected to be resolved as soon as the Panay grid synchronizes with the PCPC, which can generate a load capacity of 135 megawatts.