Power shortage-A A +A
Wrapped in Grey
Friday, September 13, 2013
THE idea is simple enough. One can learn this by playing computer games like Sim city or similar strategy games that was all the fad in the era of Pentium computers more than a decade ago.
In order for the growth of your colony or city to be realized, one needs to allocate necessary infrastructure such as access by way of roads and bridges and more importantly power or electricity that are commensurate to the demands of an area. Failure in responding to these requirements will result first to economic deterioration. And then miniature figures of a mob will appear on the screen smashing store windows and lobbing molotov bombs as representations of social disorder that follow the closure of industries and factories.
The simulation formula of these games is for sure based on more industrialized economies that are far more dependent on stable power requirements. But the recent spate of brownouts in the island of Mindanao which range from a minimum of two hours, to six and eight all over the various regions are debilitating to whatever industries are still in operation here. I can't help but wonder why people are still not out in the streets as various companies have shut down due to the unstable power situation.
The brownouts that we collectively endure in the island is the outcome of government neglect. The growth of population alone was enough basis for an increase in the projection of power demand and should have provided reason for the establishment of new power plants even a decade ago. But what did government do? They passed the EPIRA act which opened the provision of electricity to the vagaries of the free market competition.
As demand for electricity grew over the years, government did not establish new power plants expecting that the private sector will come in. As a result the hydroelectric power plants formerly operated by government which provide cheap electricity to the people of Mindanao became ill-maintained and are now in the process of being sold or mothballed.
All of these developments set the stage for where we are right now. Hours of rotating brownouts -- a condition which sits well for newly-established power generation businesses owned mainly by three rich Filipino families. Their diesel-run power plants and barges as well as polluting coal-fired plants are about to come online offering electricity in the spot market three times more expensive than the old rates. Given the context that EPIRA creates, the people of Mindanao have no choice but to cough up more of their dwindling salaries for exorbitantly-priced electricity.
The power shortage in Mindanao therefore is a government-created scenario to allow private power generation companies a foothold into the lucrative electricity spot market. What is ironic is that once these electricity providers come online, we end up grateful for their presence and miss the fact that we were duped to agree to their high rates in the first place. Take note that one of the guarantees that the EPIRA act provides for these companies is that they can pass on the cost of unused power to their consumers.
Perhaps it’s a testament to the patience or some would say resilience of the people of Mindanao that we can endure such abuse and instability to our way of life. But a stable power source is just not some of the things we can take for granted here. There are bombings, wars, natural calamities and man-made disasters that we have to contend with on a daily basis and the dismal power situation is just an addition to the long list of uncertainties that the people of Mindanao have to a certain extent gotten used to.
All of these maladies are symptomatic of the kind of regard the island of Mindanao has suffered through under various Manila-based administrations over the decades. The attitude of imperial Manila to Mindanao has always been defined by how much resources they can extract from the land with no regard for the long-term interests of its people. If there are those brave enough to defend their patrimony or raise hell over the uneven state of affairs, the carrot and stick tactic is employed which come in the form of pork barrel for the noisy rebel or unleashing the dogs of war, take your pick.
Just consider the recent goings-on in Zamboanga, a city of about a million people enduring 8-hour brownouts and now in virtual shutdown by an armed siege by forces with legitimate grievances of neglect against government. Come to think of it, the armed take over by the MNLF faction of a few urban and populated barangays at the center of the City, could very well represent the riots in Simcity that arise when something is structurally amiss.
And something is definitely amiss in Mindanao. The recent incident in Zamboanga represents the problems of a power shortage alright, but it does not mainly pertain to electricity. The real power shortage pertains to the imbalance in the state of affairs that exist between imperial Manila and its connivance with big business interests and the long-suffering people of Mindanao.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 13, 2013.