Businesses in Kidapawan expect ‘black’ Xmas due to brownouts

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/12 December) – Members of the local business community are expecting a “black” Christmas this year due to the current power situation in Mindanao.

Richie Joy Mamburao-Gapasin, owner of China Gap Events, said the daily brownouts the city has been experiencing since last year has affected her business.

“It’s so frustrating. It’s a black Christmas definitely for all of us here,” said Gapasin.

Just like Gapasin, mobile phone storeowner Renee Espina was also expecting a gloomy Christmas in as far as business is concerned.

Vicky Guboc, owner of Touch that Cares and VCG School and Office Supplies, said this is the first time the city would experience longer brownouts during the holidays.

“This early, business is already down as we have brownouts thrice daily, she said.

Banker Chona Suico said Christmas is associated with merrymaking, good food and cold drinks.  “[But] how can we have that if our refrigerators and freezers are not functioning because of power blackouts?” she lamented.

But Ramon Floresta Jr., of the RNF Summit and Wood Industries Inc. believed otherwise.

“I don’t think Dec. 24 and 25 would be black because during Christmas holidays, we have less power requirements, especially the industries and offices,” he said.

But Floresta, owner of the biggest wood business in Southwestern Mindanao expressed frustration over the poor power situation in the region.

Lawyer Omar Pacelin, spokesperson for the National Power Corporation-Power Sector Assets Liabilities and Management (NPC-PSALM), said the generating capacity of Mindanao is really a letdown especially when everybody is wishing a “lighted” Christmas.

In an interview, Pacelin admitted that four units of hydroelectric power plants in Agus in Lanao province bogged down when typhoon Pablo hit Mindanao.

Two units of Agus 1 tripped off on the morning of December 4, and another two units, in Agus 6, also bogged later in the afternoon, he said.

Each power plant has a capacity of 60MW, he said.

On December 5, a day after Pablo ravaged the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, the Unit Number 3 of the Pulangi IV hydroelectric power plant in Bukidnon, with a capacity of 80MW, underwent preventive maintenance.

Also on December 5, the NPC-PSALM has to shut down one unit of Agus IV, with a 50MW capacity, to undergo maintenance.

Five days later, these units returned to their normal operations, Pacelin said.

“Despite the normal operations, still, we lack power in Mindanao. This is why we need more independent power producers to sustain our needs,” he stressed.

Asked if people in Mindanao would experience a “black” Christmas on December 24 and 25 and from New Year’s Eve to January 1, Pacelin said: “We have to admit our generating capacity is no longer enough to respond to the growing power needs in Mindanao.”

He said further that some of the assets of the NPC-PSALM were already privatized, including the 200-MW power barges in Mati, Davao Oriental which is now owned by Therma Marine Inc. of the Aboitiz Power, and the 100-MW diesel-fed power plant in Iligan City.

“If these power barges are still under the NPC, we might have control over the power situation in Mindanao.  The sad thing is, we no longer own these barges,” he said.

In North Cotabato, power consumers experience at least three hours of daily brownouts — 45 minutes to one hour during daytime and from 1.5 hours to two hours during nighttime. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)