Puerto Princesa now in state of power emergencyBy Redempto D. Anda
Inquirer Southern Luzon
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Facing an acute power supply shortage, Puerto Princesa City on Thursday declared a state of emergency on the sector to spur the national government to intervene and address the problem.
The City Council unanimously passed a resolution to this effect following quick deliberations during a special session called Thursday afternoon by Mayor Edward Hagedorn.
“We are looking at a supply gap of about 12 months before the electric cooperative is able to find an additional supplier and to establish a new power facility. This will have tremendous negative impact on the economy, particularly tourism,” said city legal counsel Agustin Rocamora.
Blackouts and power rationing have affected most of mainland Palawan during the last few weeks due mainly to increased power consumption and the unstable condition of the power plants being operated by independent power producers.
The city was faced with almost daily brownouts last week, in instances lasting four to six hours, when some of the engines of the main power suppliers bogged down and had to be serviced, with no available power reserves on stand by.
The City Council, in its resolution, asked President Aquino to order the immediate deployment of a 15-megawatt power facility in Puerto Princesa as an interim measure until the supply of electricity in the province becomes more stable.
The main power grid connecting the capital and most of the province’s southern towns consumes over 30 MW of electricity during peak hours, which the three existing power plants, with a combined capacity of about
29 MW, could barely supply even when they operate at full capacity.
Demand for electricity has faced rapid growth, fueled by tourism and a boom in the construction sector, officials said.
Tourist arrivals in the capital has seen an unprecedented increase since February after the Puerto Princesa Underground River was adjudged one of the world’s seven new natural wonders during an Internet search launched by a Switzerland-based organization.
The recent surge in power demand was also felt when Robinson’s opened the biggest mall in the city in May, consuming at least 1 MW of power daily, along with other new hotels and business establishments.
Vice Mayor Lucilo Bayron said the move for them to call a special session and pass the measure was lobbied by the City Tourism Council composed mainly of private tourism establishments based in the capital.
“They are worried about that seeming lack of viable options to address the supply gap,” Bayron said.
The Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco), which distributes the main power supply for the mainland, launched late last year a bidding for a new 25-MW supply contract but the process was delayed by a court injunction.
Paleco’s search for a 25-MW new power supplier was slapped with a two-month injunction by a local court after a bidder backed by a Korean group of renewable energy investors claimed that the bidding terms discriminated against potential renewable energy players.
Power One Corp., had claimed that the cooperative’s decision to exclude the 12 percent value-added tax in the bid offers was disadvantageous to small renewable energy providers like itself.
The injunction was lifted late May, allowing Paleco to proceed with its bidding.
Paleco had admitted that it would take at least 10 months before a new supplier could set up a plant and provide the much needed additional electricity.