Is MORE Power to blame for city brownouts?

By Herbert Vego

POOR distribution utilities (DUs), are now on the anvil of critical blows from consumers who complain about hiked rates and frequent brownouts.

Yesterday, we heard our friends from the broadcast media taking up the cudgels for Iloilo City consumers who often agonize for as long as 12 hours of brownouts. Why now when the heat index feels like hell?

MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), the sole DU in Iloilo City, has been washing its hands of the blame. So do the three branches of Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) serving the municipalities of Iloilo province.

To shed light on the matter, we invited MORE Power’s vice-president for corporate energy sourcing, Niel Parcon, to grace our radio program “Tribuna sang Banwa” on Aksyon Radyo last Sunday.

He admitted that while company linemen are always seen working during power outages, such outages are not directly caused by their need to repair or replace dilapidated facilities.

Referring to a scheduled power interruption, Parcon said that it was the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) that had requested for that “time out” for maintenance work of its transmission lines.

The NGCP also shoulders the burden of rotating the available power supply, which falls short of the DUs’ demand.

“Our linemen,” he explained, “simply took advantage of the requested outage to inspect and replace the old and worn-out poles and crossbars with new ones.”

As to why MORE Power now bills residential customers P11.32 per kilowatt-hour – a one-peso increase from the previous rate – Parcon said not a centavo of the added cost goes to them. It’s because the bill also includes the amounts due to power plants, the NGCP and government taxes.

MORE Power gets only around 15 percent of the billed amount.

That P11.30 rate pales in comparison to those now imposed by the electric cooperatives, which have gone beyond P14/kWh.

To reiterate, although the DUs distribute the bills, the bigger slices of the pie are forwarded to the fuel suppliers, the power generators and the transmission grid, among others.

And yet it’s the DUs scouting for ways and means to minimize the power consumers’ financial burden.  One recalls that day when MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro inked the most favorable contracts with PSALM geothermal power plant.

Thus, for 14 straight months, the city households enjoyed the lowest power rates in the whole Philippines.

-oOo-

COPING WITH NATURE

WE rejoiced upon reading the news that the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has declared the onset of the rainy season.  We thought we would be free from the terrible heat index (as high as 45°C in Iloilo City) that has kept us suffering for more than one month already

Just as I was working on this column yesterday, however, I heard the news that Kanlaon, an active volcano in the center of Negros Island, had erupted.

The steam-driven or phreatic explosion could eventually lead to hazardous magmatic eruption.

During such natural phenomenon, we tend to recall the previous natural calamities that had devastated us.

I personally know of an old farmer who lost his all his wealth to typhoons. It came to the point when he had to sell his farm in order to survive his twilight years.

I tried hard to soften the blow that an “act of God” had done to him. I asked him not to take it literally because it must have been God’s way to guide him to a more prosperous future. I recited to him quotations from famous people such as this one from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

“But I am now 70,” he complained.

“Then aim to hit 100,” I quipped.

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