Palace, energy execs under fire and pressed for answers for nationwide power outages
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros is demanding answers from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his energy officials as she decried the government’s “muted responses” to electricity interruptions nationwide.
“Mr. President, hindi pwedeng dasal lang ang tugon ng pamahalaan sa problema sa kuryente. Lahat ng ating grid – mula Luzon, Visayas, at Mindanao – patay-sindi ang serbisyo. May yellow at red alerts sa iba’t-ibang probinsya,” she pointed out in a statement Friday.
(Mr. President, prayer alone is not an adequate government response to the electricity problem. All our grids – from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao – the service is erratic. There are yellow and red alerts in different provinces.)
“Nakapagtataka kung bakit mahina ata ang tugon ng DOE (Department of Energy) kahit na maraming probinsiya na ang nakakaranas ng service interruptions,” she went on, slamming the government’s energy arm.
(It is unbelievable why the response of the DOE (Department of Energy) is weak even though many provinces are already experiencing service interruptions.)
Guimaras, Panay, and Negros are the latest victims of outages in the Visayas power grid, as the provinces have suffered up to 12-hour blackouts since April 27.
This follows the up to 20-hour rotational power service disruptions that for weeks haunted Occidental Mindoro and the May 1 outage in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.
“Ang mga taga-Mindoro, apektado na nga ng oil spill, tinatanggalan pa ng kuryente. Hindi dapat pinapahirapan nang ganito ang taumbayan, lalo na sa gitna ng napakainit na summer season,” she added.
(The people of Mindoro, already affected by the oil spill, are still being cut off from electricity. The people should not be subjected to this kind of torture, especially in the middle of the very hot summer season.)
Marcos on Wednesday ordered the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to “immediately address the power crisis” in Western Visayas, which Hontiveros said only highlights the magnitude of the unsolved power problem.
““Kitang kita sa mismong kilos ng Pangulo ang extent ng problema, dahil siya na mismo ang direktang nag-utos ngayon sa NGCP na ayusin ang problema sa Visayas power grid,” she said.
(The extent of the problem is evident in the President’s movements because he had to directly order the NGCP to fix the problem in the Visayas power grid.)
According to Hontiveros, during the 2023 budget deliberations in October last year, the Senate was told that “power supply would remain sufficient and stable for this year, and that regulatory issues pertaining to high rates were being addressed.”
“Anyare na?” she asked on Friday, addressing President Marcos.
“Why is the power problem getting worse, Mr. President? Ano na ang nangyari sa ipinangakong maasahang suplay at makatwirang presyo ng kuryente? Nakakalungkot na kahit saang lugar sa bansa tayo pumunta ngayon, malaking problema sa mga kababayan natin ang mahal na singil ng kuryente sa kabila ng palagiang blackout o brownout,” she added.
(Why is the power problem getting worse, Mr. President? What happened to the promises of reliable energy supply and just electricity prices? It is sad that no matter where we go in the country today, the expensive electricity bill is a big problem for our countrymen despite constant blackouts or brownouts.)
To address issues such as renewable energy, electricity service interruptions, and high electricity rates, the DOE was allocated a budget of P2.2 billion this 2023, while the National Electrification Administration (NEA) was given P4.11 billion.
The Energy Regulatory Commission, on the other hand, was allocated a budget of P1.127 billion for 2023, the highest appropriation given to the commission since its creation in 2001.
Nuclear power solutions ‘desperate and false’
Hontiveros also challenged Malacañang’s statement on possible nuclear power collaborations in the country fueled by United States investments, reiterating her support for local, renewable energy.
“These projects will not be able to solve our immediate power woes… Nuclear energy is a desperate and a terrible, false solution to our energy needs when compared to clean and indigenous renewable energy resources,” the senator said in the same statement.
Hontiveros then promised to support inquiries into the country’s power crises by the Senate committee on energy.
She likewise committed to continuing pushing for her bills seeking lower power costs for ordinary consumers through decreased recoverable rates, removal of value-added taxes on system loss, promotion of optimal use of energy mix, and financing of renewable energy in social housing, among others.
“Let us do all we can to provide immediate relief to the energy needs of our kababayans. Tandaan natin na hindi biro ang mawalan ng kuryente sa gitna ng summer – kabuhayan at mismong kalusugan ng kababayan natin ang nakataya dito,” Hontiveros said.
(Let us do all we can to provide immediate relief to the energy needs of our fellow countrymen. Let us remember that losing electricity in the middle of summer is no joke – both the livelihoods and health of our fellow countrymen are at stake here.)