Iloilo lawmaker seeks congressional probe into Visayas power outages

BLACKOUT. Cars navigate an unlit road in Mandurriao District, Iloilo City, on April 28, 2023.(FAA photo)

By Francis Allan Angelo

The power outages that have struck parts of the Visayas since Thursday, April 27, should be the subject of a congressional inquiry, Iloilo City Representative Julienne Baronda said on Saturday, April 29.

Baronda said in a statement that she will file a resolution on Tuesday, May 2, “calling for a congressional inquiry into the total blackout that has affected Panay Island.”

“We will ask the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines and other relevant agencies to explain,” she added.

The lawmaker issued the statement following the power outages that hit the islands of Panay, Guimaras, and Negros Occidental since Thursday.

The privately-owned National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which operates transmission lines that connect power plants to electric cooperatives and distribution utilities, said some power plants conked out, causing the thin supply that trigged the power outage.

The outages began on Thursday, with the NGCP saying that it detected the disturbance at 1:51 pm, and issued the appropriate alert warnings.

Distribution utilities issued their respective advisories on manual load dropping or rotating brownouts after the NGCP’s announcement, including MORE Power (Iloilo City), the Iloilo Electric Cooperatives I, II, and III (Iloilo province), Aklan Electric Cooperative, Antique Electric Cooperative, Guimaras Electric Cooperative, and the Central Negros Electric Cooperative and Northern Negros Electric Cooperative (Negros Occidental).

Power was fully restored past 9 pm on Thursday, but there was another round of power outages on Friday afternoon, April 28. In an advisory early Friday night, the NGCP said it monitored a system disturbance at 1:50 pm which affected the Visayas grid.

Initial findings showed that a distribution utility-owned line tripped and caused power plants to disengage or disconnect from the transmission system.

“An assessment of NGCP’s facilities shows that our protection systems functioned as intended,” it added.

While the initial problem was already addressed and power supply restored, another system disturbance occurred at 2:56 pm.

“Initial findings show that the initiating event was the tripping of a generation facility. Similarly, an assessment of NGCP’s protection equipment shows that the transmission system functioned properly,” the firm added.

The power outage on Friday again affected the services areas of MORE Power (Iloilo City), the Iloilo Electric Cooperatives I, II, and III (Iloilo province), Aklan Electric Cooperative, Antique Electric Cooperative, Guimaras Electric Cooperative and parts of Negros Occidental.

NGCP and the power distributors also resorted to load shedding or rotating power interruptions due to low supply.

Power supply was restored at around 12 am on Saturday, only to go out an hour later. It was restored around 7 am but again tripped off past 8 a.m.

The NGCP said multiple power plants in Panay disengaged from the transmission system.

At 8:54 am, NGCP monitored a disturbance. Parts of the franchise areas of AKELCO , CAPELCO, ANTECO, MORE Power, ILECO I, ILECO II, and ILECO III lost power, the NGCP said.

“NGCP is investigating the root cause of the system disturbance and will release information as soon as available,” it added.

MORE Power, Iloilo City’s electricity distributor, said in an advisory Saturday morning that it tried to address the situation by rationing power.

“Since last night, we have been wanting to implement a rotational scheme in our franchise area. However, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) Area Control Center (ACC) did not allow us to execute the scheme due to unstable voltage that may potentially cause further trippings,” it said.

“Despite our efforts to prioritize the implementation of the rotational scheme, we cannot proceed without clearance from the NGCP-ACC. We are working closely with the NGCP to ensure that the rotational scheme can be safely executed without compromising the stability of the power supply,” it added.

(This story was first published in as part of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship)