Rotating BLACKOUTS expected to return to the Philippines
Rotating blackouts are back, and not just in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon. The blackouts are threatening to stall the economic engine in the Visayas and dampening investments in Mindanao.
The other day, industry representatives warned consumers to brace for more blackouts as the country enters a dry spell and a hotter summer due to El Niño. Demand for electricity is then expected to surge, just as the dry spell reduces the capacity of hydroelectric power plants. The warning has raised concern about power outages disrupting the general elections in May. Commission on Elections officials and Smartmatic-TIM, the company that won the poll automation contract, have assured the public that the precinct count optical scan machines come with back-up batteries and can run on generators. Power companies must make sure there will be no blackouts during the voting and canvassing. At the same time, the Comelec must make sure contingency plans are in place to respond to power interruptions during the elections.
Sufficient power supply for the elections is just the most immediate concern. But this problem is not merely a seasonal thing. It stems from neglect and failure to anticipate the power needs of a developing country. Ferdinand Marcos’ solution was to build a nuclear power plant, which reportedly enriched him by $80 million before it was mothballed by the administration of Corazon Aquino. Little was done to improve the nation’s power capacity after the 1986 people power revolt, and by late 1991 until 1992, the consequences were felt: the country reeled from blackouts lasting from eight to 12 hours daily.
Fidel Ramos rushed to restore the lights, but inevitably this came at a steep price. In the past nine years, Independent Power Producers and the industry in general had to contend with the fact that power rates are highly politicized in this country, deterring expansion and new investments. The privatization of 81 percent of the assets of the National Power Corp. and the National Transmission Corp. has so far produced only a minimal increase in capacity.
On top of inadequate power supply, the country has the second highest power cost in Asia after Japan, discouraging manufacturing and investments. The task of ensuring a steady, affordable energy supply will fall on the shoulders of the next president. In the meantime, the government must work with the industry to guarantee no blackouts during the elections, and to minimize the disruptions for the rest of the long, hot summer.
Read article source in The Philippine Star, February 06, 2010