By Francis Allan L. Angelo
Two senators joined calls for a congressional inquiry into the cause of the 3-day blackout that hit Western Visayas last week.
Sen. Grace Poe filed Senate Resolution No. 579 seeking an inquiry into the power interruption plaguing Panay Island for years to identify measures that would ensure continuous supply to consumers.
Poe, who was born in Jaro, Iloilo City, said it is time to put in place a long-term solution to the power woes which have been severely impacting the daily lives of residents and economic activities in the region.
“Recurring power interruptions and massive blackouts should not be a way of life for our people in Panay Island,” the chairperson of the Senate committee on public services said.
“Concerned agencies must get a handle on the problem to end the intolerable suffering of the residents,” she added.
Poe stressed the need to determine the root cause of the grid disturbances reported by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) allegedly due to the tripping of distribution utilities (DUs).
At the same time, the inquiry should delve into the position of electric cooperatives in Panay and Negros pointing to the NGCP as the cause of the problem.
An electric cooperative cited a voltage fluctuation and frequency imbalance in a line under the management of the NGCP.
“There is an urgent need to determine the root of these grid disturbances, implement remedial measures and determine who shall be held liable to finally put an end to the blame-shifting between NGCP and the DUs, and ascertain possible franchise violations,” Poe said.
“There is also a need to look into the long-term solutions to the power interruptions and outages within the backdrop of the ‘thin’ supply of power in the Visayas grid,” she added.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri also called on the Department of Energy (DOE) and NGCP to solve the recurring blackouts in Western Visayas,.
“The DOE and the NGCP must step up and answer for the massive blackouts hitting Western Visayas. These are no longer just an inconvenience. They are a major problem, affecting the economy and endangering the well-being of our people,” said Zubiri.
In late April, Western Visayas was hit by extensive blackouts, coinciding with the height of the summer season. The blackouts have also led to many smaller businesses cutting down their operating hours. In February, the region also suffered a power outage that lasted ten hours, caused by a snake intrusion in the Panay Diesel Power Plant 1, according to the NGCP.
“The frequency of these blackouts is alarming, and it is on the DOE and the NGCP to get their act straight and find long-term solutions already. A few minutes of power interruption every once in a while is understandable, but frequent outages that last for hours and hours and cause loss of income is unforgivable. The DOE and the NGCP must answer to consumers.
“If they find that we need to amend the EPIRA, then we are open to that. The law is over two decades old, and can definitely be improved to help the power sector serve consumers better, and to help prevent recurring region-wide blackouts like this,” said Zubiri.
“We have received the administration’s suggested amendments to the EPIRA, and we are already studying these, and seeing how these amendments can be further refined to best respond to the problems that we are hearing about from the power sector and especially from consumers.
“But the DOE and the NGCP must still come forward with a clear explanation behind the blackouts, and more importantly, outline a solution. We cannot let this be the norm. Our people deserve better than this kind of service.” (With a report from Dolly Yasa)