Agencies told: Explain Mindanao blackout

DAVAO -- Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate has called on concerned government agencies to reveal what caused the seven-hour blackout that hit Mindanao, including Davao City, on Easter Sunday, implying "there is something fishy" to it.

"There's more to it," Zarate said in a statement sent to Sun.Star Davao on Monday, as he challenged the Department of Energy (DOE) "to be transparent and reveal to the public the real cause of the Mindanao-wide Easter Sunday outage that left millions of residents in the dark for seven hours."

The Aboitiz-owned Therma South Inc., a subsidiary of AboitizPower, reported Monday that the blackout, which started shortly after 1 a.m. last April 5, disrupted the commissioning schedule of its coal-fired power plant located at the boundary of Davao City and Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

Because of the disruption, Therma South, in a statement, said it will reassess the commissioning schedule of one of its two 150-megawatt (MW) units and it will appraise its customers of developments.

"This island-wide blackout is now becoming an annual occurrence as it also happened on February 27, 2014 when the Aboitiz-controlled Steag State Power Inc. coal-fired power plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental dropped its capacity from 200 megawatts to 160 megawatts," Zarate said.

As of press time Monday, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) is still investigating the cause and extent of the incident.

"This recent blackout came at a time too when the Aquino administration is again aggressively pushing for the privatization of the Agus-Pulangi Hydro Power Complex, which count for at least 50 percent of the power source in Mindanao. There is more to these outages than meets the eye and the people of Mindanao want an answer from the DOE and the other agencies like the NGCP," Zarate said.

On schedule

Therma South president Benjamin Cariaso Jr. said that despite the issue on one of the units, the commissioning of the second 150-MW unit remains on schedule.

More than 20 distribution utilities and electric cooperatives have signed up to receive capacity from Therma South. The power plant capacity has been sold out since 2014.

At its peak, some 4,000 workers mostly from Davao City and Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur worked to complete the project, which is seen as one of the most critical long term solutions to the Mindanao power crisis.

In an interview over ANC on Sunday, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said that what happened was a technical problem and an isolated incident.

"This is an isolated case. NGCP and all power plants in Mindanao right now are actually on their toes, trying to make sure this will not happen again, pending the investigation," Petilla said.

"What I can do right now is simply assure the public that this is a one off rather than a thing that will happen every now and then in the next few days," he added.

He said he expects the investigative body formed to look into the cause to have its findings after four weeks.

Petilla confirmed that power has been restored in the entire Mindanao area, though they are still investigating the cause of the blackout. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

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