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Local officials seek congressional probe over W. Visayas power blackout

ILOILO CITY (PIA6) – Top officials in the province and city of Iloilo are calling the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry related to the power blackout in Western Visayas that has already affected the lives and businesses in Panay, Guimaras, and Negros Island.

Iloilo City Lone District Rep. Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda, in a statement, said that the power outage in the region “warrant[s] scrutiny by the House of Representatives in the exercise of its Congressional oversight function to safeguard public welfare.”

Baronda expressed dismay, saying that a similar crisis happened again while the first investigation related to a prior three-day power blackout in the region last April 2023 was not yet concluded in Congress.

“It seems that those responsible and accountable have yet to learn their lesson […] During the Committee Hearing last August 2023, I strongly pushed for the full implementation of the interconnection of the Luzon and Visayas Grids that would pass through Mindoro as one of the measures to address the power problem on Panay Island,” the lawmaker added.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas similarly pushed for an inquiry, including in the Senate, to hold the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) accountable for their “incompetence.”

“I am calling on our congressmen to initiate a congressional investigation of the incident since yesterday that has caused power interruption in Panay, Guimaras, and Negros. In the same way, I call on the Senate to do the same. NGCP holds a franchise from Congress and therefore is accountable to it,” Treñas said.

“Congress needs to investigate the matter and restudy their franchise. The national government through the DOE (Department of Energy), the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission), and the President should use all the powers in their mandate to ensure that the transmission lines of NGCP should be improved at the earliest possible time,” the mayor stressed in a separate statement.

It is noted that power outages blanketed the region at around 3 p.m. on Jan. 2, which the NGCP – a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing state-owned power grid – blamed to a “multiple power plant tripping in Panay Island.”

“The unscheduled maintenance shutdowns of the largest power plants in Panay Island were the primary cause of the power interruption. We emphasize the need for improved planning to ensure sufficient generation per island, with a well-balanced mix of fuels and technology,” NGCP said in a statement on Jan. 3.

The DOE, on the other hand, reminded the NGCP to adhere to its responsibilities as System Operator (SO) in ensuring supply security and reliability of the country’s state-owned power grid, stressing that they are in a position to immediately coordinate with the power plants to ensure that their respective unit protection and control settings will not cause grid instability that could lead to blackouts.

“NGCP is in a position to anticipate system disturbance such as what happened yesterday, 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 other power plants and distribution utilities (DUs)," Energy Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said in a statement.

The power blackout has already caused Treñas to declare suspension of classes in all levels of both public and private schools in the city for two consecutive days (Jan. 3 and 4).

The city government already put charging stations in Jaro Plaza bandstand, Molo Plaza and ABC Kapihan in Molo, Barangay Block 22 Hall in Mandurriao, the tennis court area in La Paz Plaza, and the Kerr and Co. building in city proper for Ilonggos to recharge their cellphones, laptops, and other electronic devices.

Meanwhile, Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr. said that the province is in “crisis mode” due to the power blackout, which affected the communities.

Several local government units in the province, namely Passi City, Barotac Viejo, Pavia, Anilao, Lemery, San Miguel, Dueñas, Calinog, Maasin, Estancia, Bingawan, and San Dionisio, also declared cancellation of classes due to the power blackout.

The Iloilo Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) already raised “blue alert” status in the province “in order to intensify monitoring of effects brought by massive blackout in the community.”

Defensor convened all department heads to get updates from the provincial civil defense cluster to execute necessary protocols and monitor the situation in municipalities.

The provincial and city governments of Iloilo also called for an emergency meeting on January 4, with the Department of Energy (DOE), National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), power generators, distribution utilities, and concerned local chief executives and stakeholders to discuss the power situation in Iloilo. (AAL/JNH/PIA Iloilo)

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John Noel Herrera

Information Officer

Region 6

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