The inadequate power supply in Cebu and in other parts of the Visayas is something that will have to be watched closely not by the power sector alone but by consumers as well.

Given the wide impact a power shortage would have on business and consumers, there must be a group composed of government and the private sector to give regular updates, guide consumers, and keep the pressure up so urgent work can be done.

It was two decades ago or in 1990 after a super typhoon hit when a pro-active monitor took shape and pursued corrective measures until the objectives were met. There is no such emergency in Cebu now but it doesn't mean the monitor would not serve its purpose of watching those in charge.

The expected impact of outages on business and productivity should prod the creation of such a power monitor.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines said there is a 200-megawatt shortage in the Visayas that will run to 10 days from last Jan. 30. The period is needed for the preventive maintenance work on the Mahanag-dong geothermal power plant in Leyte.

In addition, the 50-megawatt Cebu Thermal Power Plant 1 is on maintenance until Feb. 15 and the 44-megawatt Naga Power Plant Complex is not running because of delays in the delivery of fuel.

According to the power distributor, the Visayan Electric Co. Inc., one-hour rotating brownouts will have to be resorted to in most parts of Cebu and maybe during peak business hours.

The maintenance work is mostly scheduled and mitigating activities can be worked around it, but the lack of fuel is one that could and should be addressed immediately. A group that monitors the power situation would have more influence when demanding urgent action from agencies concerned.

Eric Mendoza of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), which represents at least 172 companies, was quoted as saying, "We would like to be very clear that this power shortage is unacceptable, and we hope that the supply will stabilize soon."

Dickson Lim of the Cebu Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Inc., for his part, reportedly said the regular power outages will force foreign investors to think twice about coming to Cebu. "In Cebu, we are hard hit, as power is vital to major businesses here," he said.

In the south, Talisay City Vice Mayor Alan Bucao, a former head of the Talisay City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the shortage will be a big blow to business. Establishments have bought back-up generators but only as temporary solutions as the cost of fuel to run these generators could be high.

A 15-day period of suffering brownouts may be temporary but that timeframe is only for the current problem. There still is the bigger problem of the absence of additional generating capabilities. Supply will be critical for the most of 2010.

According to reports, the Abovant plant will be completed late this year and the bigger 200-megawatt power plant complex of Salcon and the Korean Electric Power Corp. will start operations next year yet.

In a scenario of power outages, whether for the next few days or next months, there is a need to keep the pressure up through constant monitoring.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)