Mindanao Faces 8-Hour Brownouts

MANILA, Philippines - Mindanao is now experiencing two to eight hours of daily brownouts due to the power curbing imposed by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the 33-strong member of the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (Amreco) said.

Mostly affected are Central Mindanao, Zamboanga Peninsula, and other parts of Northern, Northeastern, and Southern Mindanao regions.

With this development, Amreco is complaining about the manner by which NGCP implemented the power curtailment.

"It is not simulating a power shortage in the Mindanao grid. Ang gusto lang sana naming malaman sa ngayon ay kung sino pa 'yung ibang naka-connect na direkta sa Napocor (National Power Corporation) upang malaman namin kung sila ba'y nabawasan din ng power supply at kung wala ay kailangan din silang i-curtail upang hindi kami masyado mabigatan sa rotating brownouts," said Amreco president Sergio C. Dagooc.

The Amreco official asked daily data on curtailment level.

"I am asking the list in relation to our complaints that there some customers who are believed avoiding the expensive plants and drawing fully from the hydro while the electric cooperatives (ECs) are blamed for none contracting Therma Marine, Inc.," said Dagooc.

Recently, Energy Secretary Rene Almendras told the ECs in Mindanao to contract with other private power companies to give relief to the ECs.

Some ECs like in Misamis provinces and its cities in Northern Mindanao, Agusan and Surigao provinces and its cities in Northeastern Mindanao have already contracted with the private power company.

To avert bigger power curtailment, some of these ECs bought 10 megawatts or more from the fossil plant stationed in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte, despite a higher price per kilowatt hour compared to state-owned NAPOCOR hydro-power, just to avail a continuing power supply.

Some ECs in Southern Mindanao like Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, and Davao del Sur also contracted the same with the fossil plant in Maco, Compostela Valley, and they only suffer minimal power curtailment.

As this developed, the Department of Energy (DoE) is calling for cooperation among stakeholders of Mindanao power suppliers.

In a press release Monday, the agency stresses that there are available generation capacities in Mindanao that are not being utilized because it is not being contracted or dispatched as nominated.

Thus the DoE urges some electric cooperatives and distribution utilities to cooperate amidst the power situation in the region and strictly withdraw power according to their contract.

With that, the DoE will be issuing a circular before the weekend that will rationalize the power supply system in Mindanao to give relief to the people in the region.

However, all these are just temporary measures that the DoE is looking at while committed and indicative capacities in Mindanao have yet to materialize.

In a related development, political leaders in Southern Philippines are bent on filing a class suit against culprits in what they lamented as "artificial" brownouts now engulfing entire Mindanao, eyeing the NGCP as main respondent.

Angelo Palmones, a broadcast journalist-turned party-list lawmaker from Kidapawan City, announced yesterday he was taking appropriate steps to lodge the class suit against the NGCP for imposing the current power curtailments in Mindanao allegedly out of "artificial" reasons.

He said the House of Representatives through its committees on energy and Mindanao affairs has started conducting an inquiry into the true reason behind the two-to-four rotational power outages, and the initial results contradicted the NGCP assertions.

"Even Secretary Luwalhati Antonino (chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority who had attended the legislative inquiry's initial meetings) is not convinced of the NGCP reasons," Palmones said in an interview over dxND radio station in Kidapawan City.

Last week, the NGCP announced that the Mindanao grid lacked 178 megawatts (MWs), an increase of 40-MW from the 138-MW deficiency on February 22.

It attributed the increase in the power supply deficiency to the 38-MW drop in available capacity from 1,117-MW on February 22 to 1,079-MW last week.

NGCP officials earlier cited the alleged decline of water levels in Lake Lanao and Pulangi River, both water bodies installed with hydroelectric dams producing more than half of Mindanao's energy consumption. (With reports from Ellson A. Quismorio, Ben R. Rosario, and Madel R. Sabater)