Businesses in CDO lament shrinking income due to brownouts

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews/09 May)—From the bar counter, Ann Ato, proprietor of Brew Berry Restaurant, watched how her customers walked away when the daily brownouts here increased to seven and a half hours this week.

“The customers would come in, look around and walk out when they see how gloomy the restaurant had become without electricity,” Ato said.

Ato said losses in potential customers are rising ever since the city’s utility firm, the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company, implemented an almost eight-hour daily brownout because of a 70-megawatt supply deficit.

She said a generator set she was forced to buy due to the brownouts could only operate an air conditioning unit that is too small to cool her restaurant along Velez Street, this city.

“I spend P500 for every four hours operating the generator, but it is not enough to cool the restaurant,” Ato said.

Ato said at nights when cooler winds bring wisps of fresh air to her restaurant is not also helping.

She noted that nobody would dare to walk the darkened city streets during brownouts.

“I do not know if I will push through with the buffet I am marketing on Mother’s day this Sunday. I am afraid the customers will not come,” Ato said.

A few blocks from her restaurant, hotel manager Eileen San Juan is busy calculating figures as the generator hums outside their family-owned VIP Hotel.

San Juan, who also heads the Cagayan de Oro investment team, said they are spending two drums of fuel to operate the generating set that supplies electricity to the VIP Hotel and an adjoining inn.

“Two drums of fuel is expensive,” she said, noting they operate the generator during brownouts so that their customers will not walk away.

“Customers want to go to hotels and restaurant where there is air conditioning to escape the summer heat. They will not go to establishments that are hot,” she said.

San Juan said hotels and establishments like theirs have to bear the fuel cost without passing them on to their customers, thus shrinking profits.

“It is already bad operating a hotel business [nowadays] and now we have this [brownouts],” she said.

Efren Uy, president of the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the power crisis has crippled restaurants, beauty parlors, laundry shops, small hotels and other small establishments that cannot afford to buy or operate a generating set.

Uy said these establishments are losing “from P100 to P1,000 for every kilowatt hour that they can not operate.”

“A small dirty ice cream maker will lose P8,000 per hour every time their production stops, “ Uy said.

In a larger scale, Uy said they estimated Mindanao “will lose an estimated P240 million an hour if the power crisis will force many big companies to realign their work schedule.” (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)