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OCCIDENTAL MINDORO, Philippines – The provincial government of Occidental Mindoro has declared a state of calamity in the wake of worsening power outages that have triggered a string of protests.
“This is a big disaster,” Vice Governor Diana Tayag told Rappler on Thursday, April 20. “The suffering of our constituents now is worse than when we were hit by storms.”
The state of calamity declaration would allow the provincial government to tap into funds to continue essential public services.
“Our hospitals are the most affected. Our budget has dried up due to fuel allocation. We spend P7 to P8 million to just to operate our hospital,” she said, referring to the fuel needed to operate generator sets.
The provincial government previously declared a state of power crisis to “ring the bell” about the issue and catch the attention of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“We appeal to the president, and under him, the Department of Energy and the National Power Corporation, to step in,” Tayag said.
There is only one power source in the province, a 20-megawatt bunker fuel power plant being operated by the Occidental Mindoro Consolidated Power Corporation (OMCPC).
The OMCPC said that due to delayed subsidy payments of the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) amounting to more than P1 billion, the power provider cannot buy sufficient fuel.
As a result, only one engine is running, which only generates 7 megawatts per day.
Power distributor Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (OMECO) said the province’s daily power demand is around 30 megawatts.
“Maybe the national government could pay the subsidies being asked by our power provider. At the same time, maybe NAPOCOR could step in by operating other power plants here while OMECO is undertaking another round of a competitive selection process [for a new power supplier],” Tayag said.
In a letter to the provincial government on Monday, April 17, the NAPOCOR said it is unable to fulfill its contractual obligations “due to our funding deficit brought about by the surge in fuel prices.”
“Our approved budget for 2023 cannot cover the full-year requirements for our Small Power Utilities Group power plants,” NAPOCOR President Martin Roxas said.
“What NPC can do for Occidental Mindoro is to facilitate regular monthly payments to OMCPC. We have in fact made an advance payment to them on April 12 of P100 million out of its total receivable subsidy payment due to the state of emergency in the province,” he added.
Due to the limited power supply, residents across the province are making do with only four hours of electricity per day.
On Saturday, April 15, various groups took to the streets to demand an immediate solution to the crisis.
“If we won’t publicly air our grievances, our lives will stay the same, we won’t be able to live normally,” said Oksi Walang Power convenor Denden Aguilar.
“We only have one goal, which is to bring our appeal to President Marcos,” he added. “If our call would fall on deaf ears, we are ready to hold a picket outside Malacañang.”
Marcos visited Occidental Mindoro in April 2022 to woo voters there in the run-up to the May 2022 elections, which he handily won.
During the campaign, he raised the issue of brownouts in the province.
“We need to fix that. That is a big problem,” he said back then. – Rappler.com