Concerns over Western Visayas-wide blackout snowball

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry TreñasPhoto from Iloilo City Mayor's Office

MULTIPLE sectors in Iloilo have expressed their concerns to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas over the second Western Visayas-wide blackout on January 2 to 5, 2024.

According to Iloilo Hotel Resorts and Restaurants Association (IHRRA), the April 2023 experience should have been a wake-up call for concerned government agencies to act fast and prioritize upgrading to make sure it will not happen again.

IHRRA, chaired by Angela Mapua Abenir, stressed the ill effects of the incidence to the business industry, which has also has been hit by high inflation rate, unstable supply, and a wage increase since last year.

“We continue to push for investments in the power generation sector to answer pressing issues of the ever growing demand of power to support the development of the city and province,” the group added.

The Iloilo Federation for Information Technology (IFIT), meanwhile, stressed how these massive power outages have severely impacted the region and significantly influenced the future of the IT-BPM Industry, particularly in Iloilo City, which has approximately 45,000 full-time employees.

“It is disheartening that as a part of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP), which strategically aims to promote countryside development through IT-BPM investments and job creation, we might lose this growth momentum and, worse yet, witness the relocation of our current locators to other cities,” IFIT and NICP President Jessraf Palmares lamented.

The group recommended immediate system improvements and policy reforms to tackle the challenges in power supply. These include maximizing the existing capacity of local power plants to reduce dependency on the national grid, enhancing the transmission and distribution infrastructure, and strengthening the regulatory framework and governance within the power sector ensure transparency and accountability.

The WeAreAyala Business Club also shared the same sentiments and urged the local government to take actions to prevent such incidents in the future.

“We know the unexpected events happen, but we believe steps should be taken to improve systems and policies to reduce the impact on businesses and residents. Taking these actions will not only protect local businesses but also contribute to the strength and growth of Iloilo City,” the club’s statement, penned by its chairman Clyde F. Andrada, read.

The Iloilo Business Club, Inc. (IBC) also joined the call for prioritization of a system-wide investigation to determine the cause of the blackout, and determine appropriate resolutions.

They also called for accountability and transparency from key players so that critical measures and policies will be implemented, and for the national government to act swiftly, with a strong sense of urgency and seriousness.

“The incident was an economic threat where the region's productivity was placed in a precarious and vulnerable situation. It is our hope that the local business community will be kept abreast on the ways forward to open opportunities for partnership and support,” the group stressed.

The Bankers Association of Iloilo Inc. also expressed their dissatisfaction on what had happened on the first banking day in Iloilo City.

Through their president Gabriel Gaby F. Lim, the group shared that some relevant banking aspects were heavily compromised because of the blackout.

These include, among others, their security as their equipment was not functioning to pre-empt possible lawless activities; their operational expenses and possible losses due to additional un-projected expenses for fuel, machineries replacement and repairs; and servicing of the public.

“As to what had happened last April of 2023 and January 2024, we are now asking for a strong and appropriate attention to the handling power corporations, regulatory agencies, and our national government to address immediately the regulations needed to be properly implemented, facilities and equipment needed to be replaced and upgraded, and enhance the transmission and distribution structural facilities to meet and accommodate the load requirements of the region,” the group stated.

On the other hand, Institute of Contemporary Economics Executive Director Bonnie Ladrido expressed that for this incident to have happened twice in a space of one year is unacceptable.

He emphasized that government agencies, like the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), for one, should get to the bottom of this.

“I am not aware of the results and actions taken after the April 2023 blackout. This should not be the case here. At the very least, it should conduct a thorough and detailed investigation which should be made available to the public. We only have one national grid operator, and the people have the right to know whether they have the competency to run this thing properly,” Ladrido pointed out.

“This blackout only serves as another wake-up call shedding light on the past failures of the NGCP in fulfilling some key mandates of its concession agreement,” he added. (PR)


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