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Poe seeks Senate inquiry into Panay power situation amid supply interruptions

Senator Grace Poe has filed a resolution directing the appropriate Senate committee to investigate the power situation on Panay Island and provide long-term solutions for power interruptions in the Visayan region.

“These recurring power interruptions and massive blackouts have plagued Panay Island for several years now and severely impacted not only the daily lives of the people of Panay but also the economic activities in the region,” Poe wrote in proposed Senate Resolution 579 filed on May 2.

“There is also a need to look into long-term solutions to these power interruptions and outages within the backdrop of the ‘thin’ supply of power in the Visayas grid,” she added.

The lawmaker emphasized the urgent need to determine the root of the grid disturbances, implement remedial measures, determine who shall be held liable to “finally put an end to the blame-shifting” between the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the distribution utilities and to ascertain possible franchise violations.

In her resolution, Poe cited the NGCP’s placing of the Visayas Grid—which includes Panay, Cebu, Negros, Leyte, Samar and Bohol—on red alert after detecting a grid disturbance, allegedly due to the tripping of the distribution utility (DU) line and causing power plants to disengage from the transmission system.

The following day, the NGCP downgraded the level to yellow although the NGCP detected another grid disturbance, supposedly due to the tripping of a generation facility.

While the NGCP reportedly addressed the initial disturbances and restored power supply, they detected yet another grid disturbance that resulted in the disengagement of multiple Panay power plants from the Visayas grid’s transmission system on April 29.

This system disturbance led to the continuous power outages in some areas of Panay Island including the franchise areas of Aklan Electric Cooperative, Capix Electric Cooperative, Antique Electric Cooperative, MORE Power, Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) I, ILECO II and ILECO III.

Poe also referred to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.'s instructing NGCP to fast-track its improvement works on transmission lines from Cebu to Negros and from Negros to Panay by finishing the third stage of the Cebu-Negros-Panay backbone project. This is expected to provide continuous transmission electricity in the region and inter-connectivity as well.

The President also instructed the NGCP to hasten the signing of the Ancillary Service Procurement Agreement with the Energy Regulatory Commission.

On Monday, Marcos said there would be no government takeover amid the frequent power outages in the Visayas region.

The NGCP has said it is looking into what caused the power outages that affected provinces in Panay Island.

The grid operator said it is “determining the root cause of these trippings to provide a universal solution to restore and stabilize the power supply chain.”

Earlier, the NGCP already warned of possible power interruptions this summer season as the Energy Regulatory Commission had denied its request for monthly extensions on ancillary services agreements.

'Kalokohan 'yan'

During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri told the Department of Energy and the NGCP to “get your acts together,” saying the power outage in Panay Island will not help the country in its development.

“Get your acts together.  In this day and age, we are 2023, we are trying to be a developing country, we are trying to modernize our structure and infrastructure, we are trying to ask people to invest in the Philippines, and yet, in the middle of the Philippines, in Western Visayas, in Visayas Region there is rotational brownout up to this day,” he said.

“Okay lang po ‘yong brownout na isang araw, magkaroon ng malfunction, magkakaproblema sa mekanismo, maiintidihan po namin ‘yan.  Pero rotational brownout? Araw-araw? Kalokohan po iyan. Hindi na po nararamdaman ‘yan ng isang developing country.  hindi po nangyayari ‘yan sa Thailand, hindi po nangyayari sa Vietnam ‘yan.   So, the DOE, I have not heard the voice of DOE yet,” he added.

(A brownout one day due to a malfunction is OK, we can understand that. But rotational brownouts? Every day? That's ridiculous.)

Although he acknowledged the daily update given to him by the NGCP, Zubiri said these reports are “mere excuses for what is happening.”

“We need to find the bottom of this. Nung isang araw sawa, ngayon putol na kuryente, mamaya naman may system failure [The other day it was due to a snake, now a power interruption, and then a system failure], that's a poor excuse for running a facility. That is inefficiency,” he said.

Zubiri then floated the possible government intervention through the DOE and the National Electrification Administration.

“We have to make sure that government now steps in which is within the ambit of government's powers. They can step in to make sure there is efficient and effective deployment of energy resources to the region,” he said.

“Kung nagtuturuan lang sila kawawa po ang mga taga Western Visayas at hindi lamang dahil pati na ang Mindanao at Luzon magkaka-problema kung wala po silang sistema na gagawin para I address ang problem sa Visayas,” the Senate president added. — BM, GMA Integrated News