MORE PANAY BLACKOUTS? DOE: Panay power blackout likely to happen again

Iloilo City at night, as seen from above. Expect more blackouts in the future until the Cebu-Negros-Panay (CNP) transmission backbone project is finished. (Iloilo City government photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The Department of Energy did not rule out the possibility that the massive power blackout that hit Panay Island in April last year and in the first week of January this year will likely happen again in the future.

“I just want to reiterate why it is possible to happen again, kasi hindi pa rin tapos yung Cebu-Negros-Panay (CNP) backbone project,” said DOE Undersecretary Sharon Garin during the Senate committee on energy inquiry on the Panay power outage on Wednesday.

Garin said the CNP project has been subject to several delays, in which the NGCP was supposed to have completed phase 3 of the CNP project in 2020, but the completion date has been delayed at least seven times from the original completion date of December 2020.

In April last year, the project was targeted for completion in August 2023. But then again, the NGCP targets the completion of the project by March 2024.

The NGCP, in its Transmission Development Plan (TDP) 2016-2040, said the development of new power plants, particularly in Panay and Negros Islands, will increase power exchange between the islands of Panay, Negros, and Cebu.

However, the existing Negros-Panay interconnection system has limited capacity to cater to the excess power generation from Panay towards Negros, which could result in power curtailment.

To ensure the effective transmission of excess power generation from Panay to Negros, the backbone project will accommodate the transmission of excess power equivalent to the output of two 400-MW plants from Panay and Negros to Cebu.

CNP Phase 3 involves the construction of 230 kV transmission line facilities from the Barotac Viejo Substation in Iloilo province to the Cebu Substation.

In a Transmission Project Status Report from the NGCP, the DOE said the CNP Backbone project is 99.64% completed as of October 2023.

Garin stressed that the prolonged power blackout that struck Panay in April last year should have prompted NGCP to fast-track its completion.

“Dapat kasi nung nangyari na ng April 2023, dapat sige August na. But then it didn’t happen in August, and the blackout happened in January again. Hopefully itong March 2024 mangyari na,” she said.

The certainty of the days-long power blackout hitting Panay Island appalled Senate committee on energy chairman Raffy Tulfo.

“Ang sinasabi ni Usec Garin, it might happen again. Jesus! Paano kung nangyari ulit yun? Paano kung for the third time, sana wag, paano kung nangyari yun ulit? What are we going to do?” he said.


MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power), the electric distribution utility of Iloilo City, also said that it may likely implement round-the-clock rotational brownouts in its franchise area amid the delayed projects of NGCP.

During the committee hearing, MORE Power President and CEO Roel Castro raised the delayed Panay Energy Development Corporation (PEDC) 138 kV S/S, 1×100 MVA, under the Panay–Guimaras 138 kV Interconnection.

The line connects PEDC’s coal-fired power plants in Lapaz, Iloilo City to NGCP’s transmission facilities.

“One of the delayed projects, probably not the big projects, but this is something already a delayed project for Iloilo is that (PEDC 138 kV S/S, 1×100 MVA) of NGCP supposedly commissioned last year,” he said.

The estimated time of completion of the substation is in January 2021 based on NGCP’s TDP 2016-2040.

Castro pointed out that if the substation does not go online by the end of this year, “Iloilo City will be on rotating brownout because there is not enough capacity from the grid connected to MORE Power’s substation.”

He further claimed that there has been no action as to the construction or the start of the construction of the 1×100 MVA in the Panay–Guimaras 138 kV Interconnection Project.

“I am flagging this up because even if all of those projects will come to fruition, Iloilo without this 1×100 MVA would be on a rotating brownout. This is a small project, in the scheme of all things with NGCP, but if it won’t happen we will be on a rotating brownout,” he stressed.

The DOE said the construction is hampered by the right-of-way issues with the property owners.

“Kayang ma resolve ang problem. [The problem] lang is yung pag acquire ng property. We are trying to work out since this is a commercial transaction,” said Garin.

When asked by Tulfo for an update on the substation’s construction, Mark Anthony Actub of NGCP said, “we should be able to finish the project in December 2024 as the need arises.”

“Let’s just say December 31, 2024,” he added, to which Tulfo stressed is an outright lie considering that according to the NGCP, they are still in the negotiation stage with the PEDC, the landowner.

Actub said the NGCP is already in the works with PEDC to allow them to start construction “no later than before the end of the month.”

Tulfo slammed NGCP for its supposed incompetence and failure to fulfill its role in operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s state-owned power grid.

“Yan ang hirap sa inyo e, binabalewala niyo yung problema. Seryoso to. Naka recess kami. Nagpatawag kami ng hearing dahil nakita namin yung urgency ng problema na to pero kayo parelax-relax, papetiks-petikx lang kayo. Parang balewala lang sa inyo, ang kakapal naman ng mukha niyo. Hindi kayo tinatablan ng hiya,” he said.

Tulfo has proposed the review and the termination of the 50-year congressional franchise of NGCP.

“I am asking the support of my colleagues here sa Senate and even sa Congress. Marami ng grounds for the termination of the franchise of NGCP and ang dami na nilang kapalpakang ginawa,” he said.


  1. One to twelve hour blackouts have occurred several times a month for the last 15 years, they have no incentive to hire competent personnel or improve the system because we have to buy our electric from just the one company we can’t go anywhere else.

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