Iloilo City, Philippines: Panay Island, encompassing four provinces and Guimaras Island, has been grappling with a widespread power outage since January 2, raising significant concerns about the Philippines’ energy infrastructure and accountability within the sector.
Cause of the Outage
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), responsible for the country’s power transmission, identified the unscheduled shutdowns of major power plants on Panay Island as the primary cause. The NGCP stressed the need for better energy resource planning across the archipelago, highlighting the importance of a balanced mix of fuels and technologies.
System Dependency and Solutions
Panay’s dependency on variable energy sources from Negros Island exacerbates the situation when internal generation fails. NGCP’s Cebu-Negros-Panay Stage 3 project (CNP3), expected to be completed by early 2024, is anticipated to enhance grid reliability. The NGCP also recommends revising the Philippine Grid Code to integrate renewable energy sources more effectively.
Local Government Concerns
Local officials, including Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, have criticized NGCP for its role in the outage, citing delays in upgrading transmission lines. Treñas called for a congressional investigation and urged national authorities to ensure immediate improvements in NGCP’s infrastructure.
Political Responses and Calls for Accountability
Representative Lorenz Defensor and various senators have expressed their frustrations and the need for accountability. Defensor suggested reviewing NGCP’s franchise if it fails to complete essential transmission lines. Senators, including Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Raffy Tulfo, chair of the Senate committee on energy, demanded transparency and a comprehensive action plan to resolve the outages.
Impact and Public Reaction
The outage has severely impacted residents, businesses, and healthcare facilities, with only partial power restoration and ongoing rotational outages. The situation has led to significant frustration among residents and calls for a thorough investigation.
DOE's Stance and Apologies
The Department of Energy (DOE) has apologized for the inconvenience and expressed openness to an investigation. Energy Assistant Secretary Mario Marasigan highlighted that while most of Western Visayas remains powerless, electricity has been restored on Boracay Island.
The prolonged blackout on Panay Island serves as a stark reminder of the challenges in the Philippines’ energy sector. It underscores the urgent need for improved infrastructure, better planning, and stringent accountability measures to prevent such crises in the future and ensure reliable power supply for all regions.