Blame game muddles blackouts

By Herbert Vego

WE are back to normal, but the blame game over the four-day Panay-wide blackouts (Jan. 2 to 5) persists.

This corner agrees with ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) should be held accountable for the rotational blackouts.

But I disagree with her view that MORE Electric and Power Corporation was as liable for the problem triggered by low power supply.

MORE Power President/CEO Roel Castro (no relation to the congresswoman) did right in denying his company’s culpability, calling it “an accusation made without basis”.

“She doesn’t understand the whole system,” he told the media.

The lady solon should realize that MORE Power does not generate electricity.  It is a distribution utility (DU) for Iloilo City. Like the electric cooperatives, it merely conveys electricity produced by the power plants and transmitted by NGCP. With no sufficient power to distribute, no DU could fill its customers’ needs.

In other words, the power industry in the Philippines is a “trinity” made up of power plants, the power transmitter (NGCP), and the DUs.

The Panay provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo have 13 power plants which generate a total of 369.5 megawatts (MW) – assuming I “googled” right – which may be augmented by additional power from other sources in the Visayas.

Take note that during all four days of rotational outages, the 135-MW coal-fired Palm Concepcion Power Corporation (PCPC) in Concepcion, Iloilo was non-functional.

So, was NGCP right in tracing the problem to the power plants’ unspecified “internal issues”?

No, not as far as Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas is concerned. He throws back the blame on NGCP for “incompetence” arising from failure to upgrade its transmission lines, thus causing “multiple trippings” of the power plants. He estimated the city’s consequential losses at ₱1.5 billion.

If I were to contribute my two cents’ worth, the government should allow the DUs to build their own power plants.  After all, for billing the power users, they are often the ones on the receiving end of the blame game.

Meanwhile, would a promised Senate investigation ferret the truth behind the blackouts and come up with innovative solutions to the problem? I doubt, since it would be a repetition of the Senate inquiry on the same problem that unfolded in April 2023.

Remember Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity? It’s “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”



THE youngest general in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Brig. Gen. Joey Escanillas, 51, is the 302nd Infantry Brigade commander of the Philippine Army at Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

He also happens to be a second cousin of this writer. However, since he rarely sees us, cousin Gingging arranged for his “thanksgiving party” in our childhood barangay (San Pedro, San Jose, Antique).

I asked Gen. Joey whether he had always been inclined to join the military.

“No,” he said,” I had hoped to take up Veterinary Medicine.  But when I learned that the course was not being offered at UP-Iloilo, I took the qualification test for the Philippine Military Academy and passed.”

“That so?” I reacted. “I had much earlier also aspired to be a veterinarian but ended up in the journalism field.”

To cut my personal narrative short, my point is that destiny has a way of paving an unintended path.

For cousin Joey, it’s that path that has led to his success in the military. The two other handsome sons of my late Uncle Joel (first cousin of my late mom Alicia) – Roel and Cyril – have found their niches as physician and seaman, respectively.

Break a leg, boys!