Senate panel orders NEA to probe extended blackouts in Palawan

Camille Elemia

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Senate panel orders NEA to probe extended blackouts in Palawan
(UPDATED) Senator Sherwin Gatchalian gives the National Electrification Administration until Friday, August 11, to finish its probe and submit findings to the energy committee

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Senate committee on energy ordered the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to investigate the extended power outages that have plagued Palawan since January 2017.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, committee chairman, has given the NEA until Friday, August 11, to conduct its probe and submit findings and recommendations to the panel. 

Gatchalian said NEA, the overall regulator of electric cooperatives in the country, should identify the root cause of the power interruptions and determine the liability of the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco) for failing to solve the issue.

“It is the responsibility of the NEA to ensure that all covered areas of electric cooperatives get reliable power. In this case, Paleco’s customers are experiencing serious problems of power outages. NEA needs to step in now, huwag na natin itong lalo pang patagalin (let’s not prolong this problem),” Gatchalian said during a formal dialogue with Palawan energy stakeholders.

Consumers have been complaining of the frequent and long power outages in the areas covered by Paleco. These include Puerto Princesa City; the municipalities of Dumaran, El Nido (Bacuit), Roxas, San Vicente, Taytay, Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Narra, Quezon, Rizal (Marcos), Sofronio Española, and Aborlan; and the island municipalities of Agutaya, Araceli, Cagayancillo, Cuyo, Magsaysay, and Balabac.

The committee said consumers have endured a maximum of 18 hours of power interruptions at least 9 times a month since the start of the year. (READ: Puerto Princesa gov’t eyes lawsuit vs power distributor)

Gatchalian said the failure of DMCI Power, an independent power producer (IPP), to deliver its 25-megawatt (MW) agreement with Paleco caused the mess. He said Paleco also failed to act on the violation.

Paleco spokesperson Vicky Basilio earlier told Rappler it is not possible to penalize some IPPs, such as PPGI and Delta P, because a “penalty clause” was not included in power supply agreements (PSA).

Gatchalian chided DMCI Power and gave it until August 11 to submit a detailed action plan on how it would fulfill the 25MW requirement.

The senator also urged Paleco to review all of its existing agreements with IPPs to check if they comply with their power supply commitments. Those who do not fulfill agreements, he said, should be terminated. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.