Cry of Panay

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

The energy quandary in Panay Island following two power blackouts in January and March 2024 is not just a local concern; it reflects a national issue of infrastructure inadequacy and bureaucratic inertia.

Recent lamentations by energy stakeholders, articulated forcefully by Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, accentuate the urgency of developing a robust energy grid that can sustain the island’s economic momentum.

It is evident that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) must amplify its efforts in improving grid management and expedite the development of interconnection points across the country, starting with the crucial Cebu-Negros-Panay Grid Connector.

The stern assertion by Governor Defensor that “A national grid without a backbone is not a national grid,” is a resounding call to reinforce the country’s power infrastructure. The current scenario, where major metropolitan areas like Metro Manila and Cebu receive prioritized treatment over others, is not only unjust; it poses a grave impediment to equitable economic growth and stability.

The indignation expressed by Mayor Treñas underscores a poignant question: “What if this happens in Cebu? Are we less Filipino?” This highlights the broader implications of NGCP’s delays—affecting not just the supply of electricity but the fundamental principles of equality and unity that hold the fabric of the nation together.

While there’s a knee-jerk reaction to consider erecting new power plants to mitigate shortages, this solution must be approached with caution. The economic viability of such undertakings is questionable. Building new power plants could lead to increased power rates, with consumers bearing the cost of excess power they do not utilize—a scenario detrimental to the country’s long-term economic health.

However, NGCP’s role, though pivotal, is part of a larger ecosystem influenced by external factors such as land acquisition issues, local government resistance, community objections, and pervasive red tape. These systemic challenges hinder the timely completion of vital projects, further exacerbating the energy predicament.

There is a clarion call here for the government to step up and actively assist the NGCP in navigating these hurdles. Without a concerted effort from both the public and private sectors to remove obstacles that delay project implementation, the vision of a well-connected power grid remains a distant dream.

The vital role of interconnectors, such as the Panay-Negros Interconnector, cannot be overstated. They are the arteries through which the lifeblood of modern society—electricity—flows.

As Roel Castro, President of MORE Power, and Antonio Cabalhug Jr., First Vice President and Panay Site Head of Global Business Power, point out, these interconnectors are essential not only for the Visayas grid development but also for the proposed Luzon-Mindoro-Panay Grid Connector. Such infrastructure is pivotal to ensuring that islands like Panay do not become isolated pockets of power outages but remain integral to the nation’s grid.

It is crucial to understand that a delay in establishing a comprehensive and interconnected grid has a ripple effect across the economy. Without reliable power, businesses cannot operate efficiently, essential services are disrupted, and citizens’ quality of life is compromised. It is a detriment that extends beyond the present, hindering future investment and stymying the region’s potential for growth and development.

In an age where sustainable development and green energy are at the forefront of global discourse, the Philippines cannot afford to lag. The country’s commitment to economic progression and technological advancement must be mirrored in the actions taken to strengthen its energy grid. A robust and interconnected grid is a testament to a nation’s resolve to ensure progress and resilience in the face of both man-made and natural challenges.

The present state of affairs demands immediate attention and action. It is time for the NGCP to address the grievances of the Panay Island stakeholders with definitive and swift action. It is equally imperative for the government to act as a catalyst, enabling the NGCP to surmount the obstacles that impede the path to a reliable and equitable energy future.

The ethos of service must transcend bureaucratic barriers, reflecting the true spirit of Filipino kinship and the collective will to empower every corner of the nation with reliable and sustainable energy.