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Power Outages in North Cotabato Worsen

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The daily power outages in North Cotabato have gone from bad to worse as the number of daily power interruptions stretched from six to eight hours due to the ongoing rehabilitation of two major power generators in Lanao del Norte and Misamis Oriental.

Godofredo Homez, general manager of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco), said the cooperative is now implementing rotating brownouts per feeder in the towns that it covers due to various repairs and the maintenance shutdown of power plants, including the hydropower facilities, which are the major sources of electricity in Mindanao.

The Unit 2 of STEAG State Power Inc., a coal-fired power plant in Misamis Oriental, is on an unplanned shutdown after it developed technical problems on July 29. Shutting down the unit was necessary to prevent further damage to the generator, Cotelco quoted an advisory from STEAG.

Compounding the problem was the total shutdown of Agus 4 hydroelectric power plant at Maria Cristina Falls in Lanao del Norte, which resulted in additional rotating brownouts in parts of Mindanao expected to last until mid-October.

North Cotabato’s power requirement is 28 megawatts but due to limited supply from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), it gets only 18 MW, including those supplied by Therma Marine Inc.

“As an electric distribution utility, we are forced to effect load curtailment in our service area from time to time depending on the advice of the NGCP until such a time that these power plants are back on line,” Homez said, pleading for understanding and patience from member-consumers.

“All of us suffer here; we seek your understanding and patience,” Homez said, adding that the cooperative is reminding consumers to unplug unnecessary appliances to prevent accidents when the power is restored.

In South Cotabato, the South Cotabato Electric Cooperative started implementing hour-and-a-half power interruptions on Friday.

On March 30 last year, former National Economic and Development Authority chief Dr. Gerardo Sicat published a position paper that discussed the power problem in Mindanao, describing it as the Mindanao power crisis waiting to happen.

Sicat said the “signs” had been known by all concerned for years, including President Aquino.

“Inaction on the required policy front meant that the day of reckoning would simply arrive and blow up the picture. That has now become a reality,” he then said.

Sicat said the government inaction to do the right thing was due to a paralysis of decision making.

He added that the lack of strong national leadership on the issue permitted conflicting interests to create a stalemate in decision making. The stakeholders in the power supply problem acted in opposite and conflicting directions, he added.

This is not the first time that a region-wide power crisis has happened in the country. The power crisis of Luzon during the early 1990s comes to mind. It was by far more serious, he said.

“It cost the nation almost a decade of sporadic power supply interruptions. That crisis has hampered our international competitiveness to this day,” according to Sicat.

 

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