Surigaonons mull civil disobedience over rotating brownouts

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 7 Sept) – Rotating brownouts that hit this city for over a month now have brought serious economic problems to small businessmen here as residents said that if this will continue, some will be calling for civil disobedience.

Lawyer Alfonso S. Casurra, former city mayor, said over the radio that he is calling for civil disobedience if the problem will not be addressed by the Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SURNECO).

Casurra, who has gained public sympathy, said the problem could have been solved had cooperative officials acted on it. He blamed the SURNECO officials, as well as its board of directors, for doing nothing to augment the insufficient power supply.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who was here on Tuesday attending the Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, has likewise criticized SURNECO officials and its board members for their supposed ineptness.

He advised electric consumers to elect board members who will really work to solve the power outages and not those backed by the politicians.

Engr. Narciso I. Caliao Jr., acting general manager of SURNECO, denied Roxas’s comments, saying they are working hard to address the power situation.

He asked concerned individuals to instead help them, “discuss our problem so we can come up with the best solutions.”

Caliao said if consumers go on civil disobedience by not paying their bills, then they will issue a disconnection order.

He said they are currently facing a power deficiency as power generators like the National Power Corporation-Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (NPC-PSALM) and Therma Marine, Inc. (TMI) are not giving enough supply to power utilities.

Caliao said the problem lies with the power generators and not the distributors, referring to SURNECO and other electric utilities all over Mindanao.

SURNECO, he said, has a power deficit of seven megawatts.

NPC-PSALM is now supplying SURNECO with only 11 MW of electricity whereas it used to supply the cooperative 26 MW.

TMI has also dropped its load from 8 MW to 6 MW.

With this predicament, SURNECO has implemented rotating brownouts of 4 to 5 hours daily.

Caliao said SURNECO has a total power demand of 23 megawatts.

He added that base load power plants will be available only by 2016 as several coal-fired power plants are being constructed in various parts of Mindanao. One of these is the Therma South, Inc. (TSI) in Davao. SURNECO, he said, has already applied for the supply of at least 5 MW.

“By year 2016 we will have sufficient supply. But what about from 2014 to 2015?” Caliao asked.

Caliao said they are contemplating to buy energy from private companies that can supply at least 10 MW at the best price and the quickest time possible.

Jose Monte de Ramos, one of the board members of SURNECO, said they prefer this route than having their own power generator set because they have no technical capability to do so.

“What we want is just to buy power from this private firm. They will build and operate,” he said.

Monte de Ramos said they are planning to avail power from five diesel-fired generator sets, each of which can produce at least 2 MW of power. With this scheme, the SURNECO will answer the almost 8 MW power deficit, he added.

He said several power companies have presented their proposals. Among them are Peak Power Energy Inc., Gen Diesel Philippines Inc., Alternative Power Resources Holding Inc., and Power Solution Philippines Inc.

Monte de Ramos said that the Department of Energy has assured to help finance the initial costs in building the power generator sets.

SURNECO held a public forum last Wednesday to discuss the power situation and seek the public’s help in coming up with solutions. At Barangay Taft, only 42 attended the consultation at the gymnasium in the morning. In the afternoon, only 38 came for the forum at Barangay Washington.

Willy A. Gan, president of Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SCCI) Inc., said at the forum in Barangay Washington that the rotating brownouts have drastically affected not just the business sector but everyone in the community.

He said he pitied the micro entrepreneurs who depend solely on their small business for their livelihood. “I could imagine they are living in debt because of this power situation,” he pointed out.

Gan said the power crisis in Surigao right now is worse than being hit by a super typhoon.

“At least in a super typhoon you can reinstall the power lines in two to three months. This power crisis we have right now is really debilitating and this is the worse economic disaster in history,” he stressed.

Some attendees in Barangay Taft, like Recardo Makinano, walked out, saying the forum will not answer the power crisis. He pointed out that SURNECO never anticipated the problem. The forum, he opined, was held because the cooperative was afraid of the consumers staging civil disobedience.

Sulpicio Basadre, on the other hand, said the consumers are being fooled with the too much commercialization of electricity.

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