GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Business sector moans in despair Thursday as daily power interruptions lasting for almost an hour are already felt in most parts of Mindanao since Wednesday.

"The daily brownouts have hampered business activities, especially industry-based sectors. Power is a basic need to sustain business operations," said Carlito Y. Uy, president of the South Cotabato Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc.

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"How long these power outages will be, we have no idea based on our consultation with the power distributor," he said.

Davao City, however, is only experiencing 30-minute rotational brownouts due to Davao Light and Power Company's (DLPC) stand-by generating plant in Bajada, which is capable of producing an average of 40 megawatts (MW) of power.

"The rotational 30-minute outages could have been much longer as it is in other places in Mindanao, and could have affected much wider areas if not for our Bajada plant," Ross Luga, DLPC corporate communications officer, said.

But still, he said, the 40MW is short by 22.2MW of the 62.2MW load curtailment by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the reason "why we are implementing the 30-minute power interruptions."

Santiago C. Tudio, manager of the South Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Socoteco) I, said the power interruptions in its service area were the result of the load curtailment observed by the NGCP due to insufficient power supply.

Interruptions

In Central Mindanao, Uy noted that productivity of workers will be lessened including the loss of income among small business establishments with no generator sets.

Pilar T. Afuang, executive director of this city's business chamber, said the rotating brownouts are costing the business sector income losses as well as the wear and tear of equipment.

Should the power shortfall problem remains unattended in the near-term, Afuang feared its negative impact to the local tuna industry, which has brought the city in the international trading map.

Tudio, in a statement, blamed the insufficient supply to decreasing production output of power producers and the increasing demand in Southern Mindanao.

Tudio said water level in Lake Lanao, which serves the hydro power plants, has gone down due to the onslaught of the dry spell.

Based on the February 11 advisory posted at the NGCP website, Mindanao has an available capacity of 1,039 MW but the peak load capacity stood at 1,195 MW, or a shortfall of 156 MW.

Outage

Rodolfo G. Ocat, manager of Socoteco II, has warned the power outages in his area of jurisdiction could well last until the May 10 elections.

"Power interruptions may possibly occur during the May 10 polls since our power supply at the moment is not enough to meet the power demands in the area," he told reporters.

Michael C. Abas, Commission on Elections regional director, said his office recognized the power supply shortage in the region but this can be remedied through some arrangements with the electric cooperatives.

The power cooperative, which needs at least 106 MW of power supply during peak hours, has been voluntarily shedding at least 11 megawatts from its daily supply requirement in the wake of ongoing power supply shortage in Mindanao.

Ocat said the insufficient power supply in the area may be addressed by the immediate deployment of standby power barges here, but doubted these could be deployed since Luzon and Visayas were also reportedly experiencing supply deficits.

Power shedding

NGCP announced Thursday it is implementing a power load shedding for the whole month of February throughout Mindanao.

“The hydroelectric power plants in the Mindanao Grid have reduced generation by at least 50 percent of their total capacity due to low water inflow of Lake Lanao and Pulangi River because of the dry spell,” the NGCP said.

NGCP Corporate Communications head Ma. Rosette Martinez said the generating capacity is anticipated to remain insufficient also due to the unavailability of two units of the Agus 5, the Unit 2 Mindanao Coal-fired Power Plant, and the Iligan Diesel Power Plant.

Martinez said the Western Mindanao Power Corporation’s power plant based in Zamboanga City also decreased its output from 90 to 80 megawatts as of February 9.

“These pushed the NGCP, as system operator, to implement power load shedding throughout Mindanao. It will be enforced for the whole month of February as it projects that power supply will remain below comfortable levels,” Martinez said.

She said they have already informed the power distributors to begin an additional load-shedding starting last February 3 at 10 a.m.

NGCP Mindanao Systems Operations head Eugene Bicar said they have requested the power generators to undertake measures to address the situation even in the short term.

Bicar said they have asked for a speedy repair of the Agus 5 hydroelectric plant.

Bicar said they have also appealed to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management and National Power Corporation to expedite the resumption of the operation of Iligan Diesel Power Plant as well as “contracting of additional power generation if there’s one available from embedded generations.”

The completion of the repair of the Agus 2--Kibawe 138-kilovolt (KV) lines 1 and 2 and the commissioning of Maramag-Bunawan 230-KV backbone project will also help strengthen the network interconnection of the Mindanao Grid, he said. (Bong S. Sarmiento and Nelson C. Bagaforo of Sun.Star Davao/Bong Garcia/Sunnex)