Mum on cause, NGCP says all lines reconnected to grid

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews s/ 27 Feb) – The power transmission service in Mindanao is now back to normal, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) said in its 4:30 p.m. update in its website.

“All NGCP substations connected to backbone lines in Mindanao were connected to the grid as of 12:18 p.m.,” the second advisory said.

NGCP is still mum on the reason behind the outage aside from saying they are still “determining the cause and will issue a statement when investigation is completed.”

Meanwhile, Roderico Bioco, president of the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., said the still unexplained power outage in Mindanao early morning today serves as a wakeup call.

Bioco told MindaNews the incident is just an “awakening” for a serious concern “that should preoccupy our national leaders.”

He cited that the NGCP, being a consortium with a state-owned company of China, is a concern.

“This is a concern to me and should be to all of us since NGCP holds a vital function that can affect not just our economy, but more critically our national security,” he added.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, on the other hand, said in a statement that the “blackout showed how precarious still is our power situation more than a decade after the government’s power assets were privatized and handed down and sold, some for a song, to a few players.”

MindaNews reported Monday morning that a major fault along a transmission line maintained by the NGCP in Bukidnon province reportedly triggered the continuing massive power outage in parts of Mindanao.

Most of Mindanao plunged into darkness 3:53 a.m. today, and the NGCP, in its website, said that it is “still determining the cause and is working to restore the power transmission service to all power customers in Mindanao.”

The report quoted Santiago Tudio, general manager of the South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative (Socoteco I), as saying they were informed by the NGCP that the cause of the outage has initially been traced to the transmission lines connecting the National Power Corporation’s hydroelectric plants in Bukidnon to the Mindanao power grid.

Tudio said in the report that the NGCP advisory did not indicate any problem with the power plants but only with the transmission lines.

“NGCP is still determining the cause and is working to restore the power transmission service to all power customers in Mindanao,” it added.

It cited that as of 9:30 a.m., transmission service was restored in Davao City, General Santos City, Zamboanga City, Pagadian City, Cagayan de Oro City, parts of Misamis Oriental.

Starting in 2008, the NGCP has obtained the task of delivering safe and reliable electricity through electric transmission business of the country.

According to its website, in 2008 the consortium of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corporation, Calaca High Power Corporation, and State Grid Corporation of China won the franchise to operate, maintain, and further expand the power grid “in the biggest government auction conducted in efforts to reform the local power sector.”

Republic Act 9511, signed into law on December 1, 2008, granted NGCP the franchise to operate, manage, and expand the electric transmission business of the country.

The Franchise Law, a product of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, authorized NGCP to handle the transmission grid for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years, for a total of a 50-year franchise.

But Zarate lamented that the EPIRA “miserably failed us all these years” with “high power prices” and the “intermittent brownouts that sometimes lasted for hours.”

According to the NGCP website, “the franchise only covers the operations and management of the transmission facilities but the assets, including lines, substations, land, and structures, will remain with the Philippine government through the National Transmission Corporation or TransCo.”

“What was once a government owned and controlled corporation and a spin-off company of National Power Corporation, NGCP now holds the responsibility of bringing the electricity produced by power plants to distribution utilities. Though relatively new, NGCP tries to empower the country by building transmission lines that will traverse and interconnect our major islands so that every household will enjoy the benefits of electricity,” the NGCP added in its website.

RA 9511 subjected NGCP to the regulation and policies of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in the conduct of its operations. NGCP is also expected to report regularly to Congress to ensure the compliance with regulators and related laws, the website added.

Zarate expressed fears that the blackout “will once again be used by the Aquino government to project a phantom power crisis and push or fast-track the privatization of the remaining government power assets like the Agus-Pulangi power complex,” referring to the hydroelectric power plants in Lanao and Bukidnon, respectively.