Review EPIRA; Investigate NGCP

THE very purpose supposedly of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) was to rationalize and harmonize the power industry with the end in view of giving the consumers, the Filipino nation, reliable, quality and affordable power supply.

But since its enactment in 2001, the cost of power has not gone down. Yes at certain times power supply proved reliable, that is until the next “system disturbance” comes around disrupting the flow of energy at the transmission lines of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines.

Before the enactment of EPIRA, Iloilo City enjoyed a relatively stable power supply with the construction and completion of Panay Power Corp.’s (PPC) 72-MW diesel plant and Panay Energy Development Corp.’s (PEDC) coal plants with a total capacity of 314 megawatts.

Ilonggos welcomed PPC as its diesel plant exclusively supplied Panay Electric Co. It was embedded in the franchise area of PECO because at that time Iloilo City and the rest of Western Visayas was suffering from rolling blackouts. PPC was a welcome development because it did not only solve the city’s acute lack of electricity, its direct connection to PECO also shielded the city from whatever “system disturbance” that may disrupt the services of the transmission of power through the Cebu-Negros-Panay Grid which is more than 230-kms circuit long.

Without PPC, which was later on was joined by PEDC, Iloilo City could not have experienced rapid development. Unstable, unreliable power supply drives investors away, paralyzes businesses, and shoot blood pressures through the roof.

Then the EPIRA came. The law abolished islanding. It cut PPC-PEDC’s direct connection to PECO, then Iloilo City’s sole power distribution utility. Now the city, under newly-minted MORE Power taking over PECO’s franchise, we are getting our power through the CNP Grid owned, operated and managed by NGCP, whose controlling stock is owned by the communist government of China through its State Grid Corporation of China.

The spate of power blackouts that hit Western Visayas in the past three days is a sad commentary on the failure of EPIRA and the unmasking of NGCP as a heartless, inutile but profit-hungry private consortium. EPIRA failed to serve its purpose. Congress and Malacañang should review this law to amend it or even abolish it and replace it with a better one responsive to the peculiar needs of the Philippine power industry.

Our government leaders should also investigate NGCP what with reports that it has yet to deliver on its commitments and comply with the conditions set forth in NGCP’s takeover of the transmission business from the National Transmission Corporation, the national government corporation originally tasked to manage the transmission system that links power plants to the electric distribution utilities nationwide.

The latest set of rolling blackouts traced to the mysterious and seemingly unexplainable “system disturbance” in NGCP’s transmission service makes the call imperative. Remember, it has been raking in billions in profits yet look what it repays us. The untold economic impact and the inconvenience it wrought upon consumers should be enough wakeup call.