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DOE urged to work double time to ensure sufficient power supply during election day

Photo by Rappler

Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian urged the national government to have a back-up plan on preventing a massive power failure in Mindanao on election day as the Department of Energy admitted that the Mindanao grid remains in “red alert.”

A red alert means there is “severe” power deficiency and the DOE said Mindanao remains on “red alert” because the 150-MW Therma South Inc. coal-fired power plant and the 35-MW Pulangi Unit 4 are still offline.

“The negative power outlook in Mindanao should be a cause of concern for the Commission on Elections as this is a direct threat to the conduct of credible and orderly elections in Southern Philippines,” said Gatchalian, who is running for senator under the Partido Galing at Puso (PGP) of presidential bet Grace Poe and running mate Chiz Escudero.

“We do not want Mindanao to suffer the kind of brownout that hit the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport which lasted for 5 hours because the NAIA administration failed to check whether their power generators are in running condition,” added Gatchalian.

On Monday, the Luzon grid was also placed on yellow alert after several power plants tripped. A yellow alert means reserves are below the minimum level set by the regulator. Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada said high demand, particularly at peak hours, and maintenance work in some power plants were also considered in placing the grid on yellow alert.

Among the Luzon power plants affected were the 300-megawatt Calaca Unit 2, which suffered from turbine problem; 11-MW Therma Mobile Inc.’s Units 5 and 6, where maintenance work was extended; the 647-MW Sual coal-fired power plant and 61-MW Unit 3 of Therma Mobile also tripped.

Gatchalian said the statement of Secretary Monsada is not that reassuring since the DOE said the problems affecting the 13 power plants in the Luzon grid is expected to be resolved by the end of April or before the May 9 elections.

“The DOE should be exerting all efforts to resolve the problems in the 13 Luzon power plants soonest since the May 9 elections is not a movable date and the credibility of the election results could be put in doubt because of the possible brownouts,” Gatchalian pointed out.

Gatchalian also called on the DOE to disclose to the public its game plan to solve the worsening power interruptions in Mindanao amid security concerns for the May 9 elections.

“What does the Department of Energy intend to do with the worsening problems in power in Mindanao? The public deserves to know how the agency will solve the crisis to allay concerns on the safety of election officers and the credibility of the May 9 polls,” he said.

Gatchalian also​ questioned the lack of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects that will boost the power supply in Mindanao even as he stressed that the next administration should be committed to strengthening Mindanao’s energy capabilities through PPP projects.

The Valenzuela City congressman has observed that as of Mar. 21, nothing in the current lineup of PPP project totalling 53 (including two LGU projects, a BOT project, and a joint venture agreement) aims to increase the energy supply in Mindanao.

Past PPP projects included two geothermal plants whose contracts started in 1997 and will end separately in 2022 and 2024. Two other projects are a coal-fired thermal power plant and a diesel power plant in Zamboanga with contracts concluding in 2031 and 2015, respectively.

“The recurring power crisis in Mindanao not only interrupts its economic growth but also theatens its political stability and, at times like this, the integrity of the polls. Development should not be exclusive in the capital or in Luzon but it should spread as well to other islands,” explained Gatchalian. (Monica Cantilero)