January 4, 2024
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas has called on Congress to investigate the massive power outage that struck Panay and Guimaras Islands on Tuesday.
Treñas said that the widespread disruption was nothing short of “economic sabotage” with many residents and business establishments in the provinces of Guimaras on Guimaras Island and Iloilo, Antique, Aklan, and Capiz on Panay Island still without power as of Wednesday afternoon.
According to National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), households in Panay were plunged into darkness on Tuesday due to the tripping of multiple power plants, isolating the entire island from the rest of the Visayas grid.
Treñas lambasted NGCP’s “incompetence” and sought urgent corrective actions to prevent future prolonged brownouts.
He underscored the economic repercussions of such a power outage on the local businesses in the Central Business District in Iloilo City, including Calle Real, City Hall, and the Business Park in Mandurriao.
Biz group concerned
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Iloilo Chapter Inc. shared Treñas’ concern over the adverse impact of the power outages in the city of Iloilo.
PCCI-Iloilo president Fulbert Woo emphasized in a Jan. 3 letter to Treñas that frequent power outages posed “significant challenges that could compromise productivity and operational efficiency. This situation could also lead to a decline in the overall economy and hinder the city’s job creation efforts.”
PCCI said that it stands ready to collaborate with other stakeholders to devise new solutions to prevent a repeat of the outages, including infrastructure upgrades, improved maintenance schedules, and the exploration of alternative energy sources.
Parts of Panay Island remained without electricity on Wednesday afternoon as three power plants were still unable to generate power for thousands of customers.
Cause still unclear
NGCP said at least 452 megawatts (MW) of power was lost to the Visayas grid on Tuesday due to tripping of power plants (302 MW) and maintenance shutdown (150 MW).
This affected the customers of Iloilo-based distributor MORE Electric and Power Corp., three Iloilo electric cooperatives and Guimaras Electric Cooperative Inc.
NGCP had yet to disclose the cause of the power plant outages except that an internal issue caused the tripping of Panay Energy Development Corp.’s Unit 1 plant on Tuesday at noon.
Based on its 7 p.m. advisory on Wednesday, NGCP said 211.6 MW was being served by Panay power plants and augmented by 43 MW from sources elsewhere in the Visayas for a total load of 246.8 MW, still short of the 300 MW needed for the grid to operate as it should.
NGCP, which has been in hot water due to the delayed completion of crucial transmission projects, called for “better energy resource planning” following the incident.
“We emphasize the need for improved planning to ensure sufficient generation per island, with a well-balanced mix of fuels and technology,” it said in a statement.
In a separate statement, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said it was closely monitoring the power situation, adding that “every effort is being made to restore power as quickly as possible.”
“To enhance communication and keep consumers better informed during this situation, we have requested NGCP to increase the frequency of updates provided for the public,” ERC Chair Monalisa Dimalanta said.
For its part, the Department of Energy told NGCP to “adhere to its responsibilities as system operator” and ensure supply security and grid reliability, stressing that the company needed to immediately coordinate with power plant operators to prevent outages.
“NGCP is in a position to anticipate system disturbance, such as what happened [on Tuesday], which unfortunately resulted in the isolation of Panay from the rest of the Visayas grid due to the simultaneous tripping of power plants that caused multiple power interruptions, affecting power plants and distribution utilities,” Energy Undersecretary Rowena Guevara pointed out.
The Iloilo City Government, in an advisory posted on its Facebook page, said that based on the NGCP advisory, power would be restored gradually to keep the grid stable and prevent damaging fluctuations.
In the meantime, classes in both public and private schools in Iloilo City will be suspended on Jan. 4.
“The prolonged power outage exposes our children and students to the effects of heat and humidity which may lead to heat-related illness exacerbated by lack of adequate sleep or general feeling of drowsiness; and possible exhaustion from travel or commute,” the city government said in its advisory.
Treñas and Iloilo Gov. Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. want power restored as soon as possible.