Occidental Mindoro endures power crisis
CITY OF CALAPAN—Power outages lasting for as long as 20 hours daily in Occidental Mindoro have prompted the provincial board to put the province under a state of calamity, Gov. Eduardo Gadiano said on Thursday.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan made the declaration on Tuesday to allow the provincial government to tap into funds to continue essential public services, Gadiano said in a phone interview.
In a statement, Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (Omeco) said its lone power supplier, Occidental Mindoro Consolidated Power Corp. (OMCPC), is providing only 12 megawatts (MW), much lower than the province’s demand of 30 MW.
Since April 13, the province has been experiencing power interruptions after OMCPC decided to operate at only 7.5 MW because of the nonpayment by the National Power Corporation of its fuel subsidy needed for the other power plants.
The province is not connected to the national power grid, Gadiano earlier told the reporters.
On April 12, the OMCPC informed the National Electrification Administration that it would be operating only one generator set with a capacity of 7.5 MW for 24 hours “until further advice.”
Gadiano said Occidental Mindoro needed national attention, particularly from President Marcos and the agencies under his office, given the worsening situation in the province.
The governor said provincial leaders had taken several steps to solve or at least mitigate the decades-old power problem by sending letters to the President, holding dialogues with all concerned groups and hosting a power summit.
“We are left feeling helpless and furious … as our basic needs are held hostage by those who are supposed to serve us,” said Roger Calaranan, one of the conveners of the Oksi Walang Power Movement, in a social media post.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Calaranan said about 5,000 people attended a concert-protest that they staged in the town of San Jose on April 15 as they “hoped to be heard louder this time [about our] dehumanizing situation.” The other groups behind the “blackout concert” were Pundidong Ilaw, Eight Ball Tribe, Mangyan Movement and the Samahan ng Consumers ng Occidental Mindoro.
“The power outages put at risk the sick, children, elderly and [cause] huge losses on businesses. We are appealing to the President to intervene in the power crisis. We only have four hours of power supply [daily],” said Calaranan.
Residents recalled that addressing the province’s power issues was among Mr. Marcos’ promises when he campaigned here during the presidential election last year.
On Thursday, the Department of Education in Occidental Mindoro reported that students were starting to feel the impact of the power interruptions, especially amid the dry season.
The information office of San Jose town said disaster responders assisted 10 students in different schools, who collapsed or complained of dizziness, from March to April 18 due to extreme heat worsened by the power outages.
“We had been suffering from power outages for years. It’s the whole province that is affected. We can compare [its] socioeconomic cost with the [impact] of the oil spill in [nearby] Oriental Mindoro. Lives are also at stake here,” said Calaranan.