Surigaonons ask: Where are the generators?

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 Nov) – Power consumers here are asking why the multimillion-peso modular generator sets purchased by the Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative Inc., (SURNECO) were not used to augment power during a prolonged outage in the city and in 11 municipalities of Surigao del Norte last Sunday.

“Where are the multi-million generator sets of SURNECO?” Bimbo Patino, one of the power consumers, asked on his Facebook account.

Annette Villaces, information officer of the city government, was among hundreds who got pissed off by Sunday’s blackout that stretched to 17 hours. She said it should have been reduced had the generator sets were utilized.

Roland A. Legaspi, technical crew of a local radio station, said the generators are “useless” because these have not been functioning as intended.

“I hope the generator sets would now function because these have been on standby for two months already,” said Vincent Irresari, a local vendor.

But SURNECO general manager Narcisco I. Caliao Jr. said the generators could not be used commercially right now pending the necessary permits sought by its contractor, Cost Plus, Inc., from government line agencies.

Caliao said Cost Plus has been waiting for the environmental permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and certificate of compliance to be issued by the Department of Energy (DOE).

He explained that the provisional authority from Energy Regulatory Commission is now ready but it needed the permits from DENR and DOE.

March last year SURNECO conducted a bidding for five units of diesel-fired modular generator sets with the approved budget of P205 million from National Electrification Administration, funded by the P4-billion Malampaya Funds.

Caliao said the five units, which could generate at least 10 megawatts, had been installed and commissioned last September 24.

“These five units have been tested two times a day, one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, for almost two months now but we cannot operate these for commercial use pending necessary permits,” he said.

“The power generated from the daily testing is being dispatched to lines and it’s free of charge since we are waiting for permits for commercial operation,” Caliao stressed.

He said once permits are completed, Cost Plus would start commercial operations. The company will supply electricity exclusively to SURNECO.

Caliao said SURNECO has a daily power deficit of 4-6 megawatts.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ preventive maintenance work caused the blackout last Sunday. Aside from SURNECO’s franchise areas, it also affected the nine towns under the Siargao Island Electric Cooperative Inc.

The prolonged blackout in the city on Sunday drew flak from residents who blamed it on the local power distribution firm.

Sunday’s scheduled blackout affected 20 towns in Surigao del Norte and Surigao City. While it lasted 12 hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., in most of the affected areas, it stretched to 17 hours in this city and in the municipalities of San Francisco and Malimono.

Caliao asked for consideration and patience on the part of the consumers for the cooperative’s failure to restore power as scheduled. He attributed the delayed restoration of power to a technical glitch in one of their substations.