Brown-outs strike anew in NoCot

By
October 26 2012

Ma. Sally Esperitu, proprietor of the eatery Kusina Kabacan in nearby Kabacan town attributes her drop of daily sales to the brownouts. “Sa peak hours pa gid gakabrown-out. Sin-o pa gusto makaon nga wala man kuryente (These brown-outs usually happen during peak hours. Who wants to eat in a place without electricity)?”said Esperitu.

By DANILDA L. FUSILERO
Davao Today

KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato – Power outages or brownouts are happening again in this province which ironically has two large geothermal power generating facilities, the Mt. Apo Geothermal Project 1 and 2.

Residents and small business operators alike complain of three-hour brownouts occurring for nearly a month now as it has caused inconvenience and affected incomes as well.

Ma. Sally Esperitu, proprietor of the eatery Kusina Kabacan in nearby Kabacan town attributes her drop of daily sales to the brownouts. “Sa peak hours pa gid gakabrown-out. Sin-o pa gusto makaon nga wala man kuryente (These brown-outs usually happen during peak hours. Who wants to eat in a place without electricity)?” said Esperitu.

Cheryl Gay Galabin, 20 and a third year high school working student of Central Mindanao Colleges (CMC) here also complains she could not sell barbecue at night anymore, her means to support herself in school.

“Dako epekto sa amo ang mga working student ang sige brownout. Lisod mag-trabaho sa gabii (Brownouts affect especially us, working students. It is hard to work at night with no electricity),” she said.

Kidapawan City Councilor Lauro Taynan, chair of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources here also raised questions over the unpredictable schedule of rotating brown-outs.

“Dili na masabtan ang schedule sa brownout ug dako na ni epekto sa mga gagmayng negosyo (We could no longer understand the schedule of brownouts and this has already affected the small business sector),” Taynan said.

Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) Manager Godofredo Homez said that the recent brownouts are mainly caused by the load curtailment from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) after the coal power generation plants operated by the STEAG State Power in Misamis Oriental underwent maintenance repair weeks ago.  The scheduled repair and maintenance is expected to run until mid-November.

Such curtailment has raised criticism from Sarangani Governor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, saying “Load curtailment schedule are vital for us to mitigate its effects on the business sector, but it seems to have not been so well-planned with no clear timeline.”

It will be recalled that the province was among the hardest hit by rotating brown-outs lasting five to eight hours in Mindanao during the months of March to May. The problem was attributed to power generation shortage.

Kidapawan officials have sought the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) which operates the Mindanao 3 Geothermal Plant to give preferential privilege of electric power to Kidapawan by supplying electric power to Cotelco through an embedded connection since the said geothermal power plants are located in Mt. Apo which is part of Kidapawan.

EDC, however, turned down the proposal citing restrictions in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

Under the said law, transmission of power produced by power generation plants shall be solely controlled by the NGCP, so that the local power distributor of Kidapawan, Cotelco, should have to buy electric power from NGCP.

The NGCP has been sold to private corporations since EPIRA was enacted in 2001.

This transfer of control of the power sector into private hands has largely been blamed as the culprit behind the brownouts amid skyrocketing power rates.

Even this so-called load curtailment by the NGCP which resulted to brownouts, Gabriela Women’s partylist Ruby Padilla-Sison said, “could be a ploy to manipulate electric cooperatives to opt taking supply from expensive power sources, for more profits.”

Sison pointed out that since the power sector has been under the control of private power players, transparency has become more an issue, as these private companies could hide the real score regarding the power supply for their profit-driven ends.

Sison cited that contrary to its claims that EPIRA will reform the country’s power sector, it has made matters even worse. “What we have now is the high cost of electricity for the people and inefficient service at its worst,” Sison said.

“Allowing private power industry players to control this vital industry is giving these profit-driven entities a free hand to make a fool of the people,” she added. (Danilda L. Fusilero/davaotoday.com)

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