‘WELCOME BLACKOUT’: Western Visayas loses power in New Year

Iloilo City Hall workers were sent home early Tuesday afternoon following the regionwide power blackout. (Mariela Angella Oladive photo)

By Francis Allan Angelo and Sean Rafio

Western Visayas greeted the New Year in heat and darkness.

Thanks but no thanks to the power blackout that hit the region past noon Tuesday.

The supply woe was sudden in some parts of the region such as Aklan and Iloilo province, but it was gradual in Iloilo City as households noticed low voltage conditions.

The blackout wrapped the entire Western Visayas at around 2 p.m. based on the timeline provided by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), which operates the transmission lines from the power plants to distributors.

In a statement, NGCP said, “a yellow alert was raised after all power plants in Panay Island were not able to generate power.”

The yellow alert lasted from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday.

A yellow alert is issued when the operating margin is not enough to meet the transmission grid’s regulatory and contingency requirements.

The NGCP said the disruption began at 12:06 PM with Panay Energy Development Corp (PEDC) Unit 1 in Lapaz, Iloilo City tripping down due to internal issues.

But the problem cascaded to PEDC Unit 2, Palm Concepcion Power Corp. in Iloilo province, and other plants in Panay, thus isolating the island from the rest of the Visayas grid.

PEDC operates three coal-fired power plants in Lapaz, but its Unit 3 which can generate 150 megawatts (MW) has been under preventive maintenance works since Dec 19, 2023.

NGCP reported that 302 MW was lost in the Visayas grid due to the tripping of the plants, while 150 MW was lost because of planned maintenance shutdowns. This translates to a total of 452 MW of unavailable power in the Visayas grid.

Based on NGCP’s projection of supply and demand for Visayas, the region has an available generating capacity of 2,592MW while its demand peaks at 2,053MW, or a reserve of 539MW.

The Negros-Panay interconnection was restored at 3:24 PM, the NGCP said. But it has yet to disclose the cause of the power plant outages.

“NGCP is focusing its efforts on stabilizing voltage, and has extended feedback power to Iloilo and PEDC. Load restoration will be done conservatively, by matching loads to restored generation, to prevent repeated voltage failure,” NGCP said in a statement.

In a statement, Global Business Power Corp. confirmed that PEDC Units 1 and 2  tripped Tuesday afternoon.

“We are still investigating the cause of tripping, we are currently closely working with NGCP on feedback power supply to PEDC Units 1 & 2 to restart as soon as possible,” the statement added.

On December 12, 2023, GBPC announced that it postponed the annual preventive maintenance schedule (PMS) of the 150-megawatt PEDC Unit 3 upon NGCP’s request.

The maintenance work is necessary to ensure the power plant’s integrity and safety.

Antonio Cabalhug Jr., MGen-GBP first vice president for Panay Site Operations, said they were supposed to start the PMS on Dec 11, but the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which operates the power transmission lines of the country, asked them to postpone it in the meantime.

“This PMS was planned and approved months but NGCP suddenly asked us on Monday to postpone it in the meantime until the NGCP has confirmed that the grid security, especially in Panay, is assured. We were told that the grid was critical and will be affected if we remove the 150MW from PEDC-3,” Cabalhug said.


Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas has expressed his dismay at the power blackout that affected some parts of Western Visayas.

“I am utterly dismayed that due to an unstable supply, the whole Panay Island can be totally isolated. I call on the Department of Energy and NGCP to resolve this problem at the earliest possible time. I call on NGCP [National Grid Corporation of the Philippines] to find a more sustainable solution to the problem,” Treñas said in a statement.

“The Regional Development Council-Infrastructure Development Committee will definitely look into this immediately. I am dismayed with this kind of service,” he added.

The unscheduled power interruption occurred at around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, January 2, affecting provinces in Panay such as Iloilo, Aklan, and Capiz; the island-province of Guimaras, as well as some parts of Negros island.

The Energy Regulatory Commission said it is currently investigating the incident, according to the Department of Energy.

The NGCP said it is still investigating what could have caused the blackout.

As of 7:18 p.m., MORE Power said it has re-energized only 29.21 percent of its service area in Iloilo City.

Yesterday’s blackout brought back memories of the 12-hour power outage that hit Panay, Guimaras, and Negros Islands in April 2022.

The blackouts were also blamed on transmission line woes in the region.