Power gridlock

By Herman M. Lagon

THE FOUR-DAY power outage in Western Visayas not only caused a disruption in the daily activities of the Ilonggos, leading to a loss of opportunities worth at least P2 billion, but it also rasied critical questions about the accountability of the NGCP or the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines in maintaining the power grid’s stability and dependability.

The crux of the issue lies in Malacañang’s assertion that the NGCP was to blame. The claim was based on information that NGCP had a two-hour window to address the grid instability but failed to take necessary actions. This alleged inaction is not just a missed opportunity but a dereliction of duty, considering the repercussions of the blackout.

NGCP’s response to these allegations was a mix of denial and an attempt to shift the narrative. They insisted their mandate was limited to power transmission and any system abnormalities were not within their operational scope. However, such a narrow interpretation of their role contradicts the broader understanding of their responsibilities as the primary entity overseeing the country’s power transmission network.

Executive Director of the Institute of Contemporary Economics Bonnie Ladrido’s insightful ‘Resibo’ article, which Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas shared on social media, further dismantles NGCP’s defense. He argues that NGCP’s failure to implement Manual Load Dropping, a standard protocol to prevent grid overloads, was a glaring omission. This oversight suggests a lack of preparedness and adaptability in crises, qualities crucial for an organization entrusted with the nation’s power transmission.

Moreover, NGCP’s record, as noted in the report by the Technical Committee of the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation following the April 2023 blackout, indicates a history of similar lapses. The report highlights instances where NGCP acknowledged the necessity of Manual Load Dropping to prevent blackouts, contradicting their later assertions of normalcy before the January 2024 crisis.

While NGCP’s role is central to this debacle, it is also essential to recognize the systemic nature of the problem. ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro’s remarks that MORE Electric and Power Corporation shares responsibility allude to deeper issues in the power sector. It suggests that the crisis is rooted in a complex interplay of factors involving multiple stakeholders, including power generation companies and distribution utilities.

Meanwhile, the public’s response to the blackout was a blend of frustration and resilience. Citizens turned to social media to voice their concerns, employing humor as a coping mechanism. This public sentiment underscores a broader issue of reliance on a power infrastructure that has repeatedly proven unreliable.

This incident underscores the need for systemic reforms in the Philippine power sector. It calls for a reassessment of NGCP’s statutory obligations and a legislative investigation to ensure such crises are averted in the future. The Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy’s stance on holding NGCP accountable is a step in the right direction, but more comprehensive measures are necessary.

The Western Visayas blackout is a wake-up call for the Philippines. This situation underscores the critical necessity for enhanced transparency, stringent accountability, and an assertive, forward-thinking strategy in the governance and management of the nation’s power infrastructure. While NGCP’s accountability is a significant aspect of this crisis, addressing the systemic vulnerabilities of the Philippine power sector is paramount. As the nation moves forward, there is a clear need for reforms that address current inadequacies and pave the way for a stable, reliable, and sustainable energy future.


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.