GenSan biz group asks Palace to act on power outages

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 September)  – The business community here urged the national government to intervene in the operations of the National Power Corporation’s (NPC) hydroelectric plants in the wake of daily rotational brownouts that hit this city and various parts of Mindanao during the last two weeks.

Manuel Yaphockun, board member of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, appealed to Malacañang to immediately put an end to the worsening power outages to prevent further losses on the part of various local industries, most of which were still reeling from the impact of the power crisis that hit the area earlier this year.

He said they sought clarifications earlier from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and local distribution utility South Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Socoteco) II regarding the repeated brownouts, which lasted three hours daily, but failed to get a satisfactory explanation.

Yaphockun said the NGCP and the Department of Energy also provided conflicting data regarding the supposed shortage presently faced by the Mindanao power grid.

“The situation is very uncertain right now because we don’t exactly know the cause of these brownouts and when it will end. Our national officials really need to come in now and try to work things out before the problem worsens,” he said.

Power consumers in this city and nearby provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat have been experiencing daily rotational brownouts since September 13 due to the power load curtailment imposed by the NGCP.

In this city, Yaphockun said the NGCP only supplied at least 73 megawatts (MW) out of the required 106 MW during peak hours.

“We’re really concerned with this situation because this might lead to another series of long brownouts,” he said.

NGCP officials earlier said it reduced Mindanao grid’s power supply by at least 350 MW reportedly due to power generation deficiency in the area.

On the other hand, the NPC reported a “zero contingency reserve” due to the scheduled preventive maintenance works, emergency shutdowns and reduced capability of six of its hydroelectric plants.

But Santiago Tudio, general manager of Socoteco I, said they were not satisfied with NGCP and NPC’s explanation regarding the current power shortfall, especially the failure of the two firms to set a definitive timetable as to the extent of the power deficiency.

“We understand that these plants need to undergo regular preventive maintenance but we can’t understand why they cannot say until when the maintenance works will last,” he said
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Tudio said he called up officials of NPC and NGCP several times but failed to get any answers regarding the exact duration of the power load cuts and the brownouts.

“They’ve been pointing the blame on each other. In several instances, NPC personnel refused to take our calls and directed us instead to contact PSALM (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.),” he said.

Tudio added they are also verifying reports that Therma Marine Inc. (Aboitiz Power) has not operated its two power barges that have combined capacities of 192 MW due to the failure of some electric cooperatives to settle their previous payments for ancillary services.

The NGCP charged electric cooperatives for ancillary services due to the power supplies generated by various alternative sources when the NPC’s hydroelectric plants were forced to shut down as a result of the El Niño Phenomenon last February to May.

Citing reports from power industry sources in Northern Mindanao, Tudio said Therma Marine allegedly refused to have the power barges dispatched because the NGCP has accumulated arrears of some P300 million with them. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

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