METRO Manila and other areas in Luzon can look forward to uninterrupted power supply this week as Energy officials gave assurances on Sunday that the energy situation will be back to normal today.
The Department of Energy (DOE) said the Ilijan natural gas plant in Batangas will be back on the grid this morning, improving the power outlook for the week.
“Ilijan is expected to ramp up early morning tomorrow [Monday] and should be back to normal by midday. Outlook is expected to be normal starting tomorrow,” Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told The Manila Times in a text message.
The DOE chief said the maintenance shutdown of the Ilijan plant tightened available power supply. Some areas in Metro Manila experienced rotating brownouts on Saturday because of insufficient supply.
The Ilijan power plant is one of three natural gas plants supplying 30 percent to 40 percent of Luzon’s energy requirements.
Petilla said the Ilijan plant was shut down because its pipelines were inspected through a process called “pigging” wherein the nearly 15-kilometer pipeline was cleaned.
The pipeline transports natural gas from the Malampaya platform in offshore Palawan.
Although the plant is operated by Kepco Philippines Inc., its output is contracted by state-owned National Power Corp. (Napocor).
But the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) was not appeased by Petilla’s explanation.
The group said the government should declare a national emergency on power since the insufficient supply that led to rotating brownouts over the weekend could just be the tip of the iceberg.
“Our ship-of-state is sailing full speed ahead, in a collision course with the twin-peak iceberg of lack of power and Meralco’s never-ending price increases. The DOE is placing our economic take-off at risk and is setting the stage for an impending economic meltdown,” TUCP Executive Director Luis Corral said.
“The TUCP requests that the DOE secretary call a spade a spade and advice President Aquino that there is now an emergency in the power sector, requiring a multi-agency response with clear directions from the President,” he added.
On April 30 this year, the group urged President Benigno Aquino 3rd to declare an emergency and establish a multi-agency group to address the power crisis.
Corral said the power problem is being worsened by DOE’s lack of clear policy parameters and accompanying strategies to ensure secure power supply or to define competitive rates.
“The DOE doesn’t have these two items which can be technically defined by engineers, financial analysts and industry practitioners. In the absence of crisis leadership, electric power policy is veering from one Supreme Court case, still unresolved, to a new Supreme Court case, from ERC [Energy Regulatory Commission] caps on a supposedly free-market activity to a more complex two price-cap mechanism and now to a pitiful DOE Task Force on Power Rates whose arcane and complex debates are further obscuring one central fact: That Philippine Power Policy is in this climate of drift is firmly in the hands of a socially irresponsible and financially greedy power generation sector,” he explained.
TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay called on the government to look at various options available to it to address the energy woes.
“While there is a lack of secure and reliable supply, the government should step in to put up additional capacity. If bilateral contracts between power distributors and generators will better lower rates and approximate true costs, then suspend the WESM [Wholesale Electricity Spot Market] until a technically developed percentage of supply reserve is set up to engender real competition. If there is cheap hydropower available during the rainy season, then run it instead of keeping it as ancillary reserve while the more expensive coal and oil plants are run,” Tanjusay said.
He added that this can be done without need of amending the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of. 2001.
“All it takes is presidential courage to announce an emergency and the need for a national response. Then all the players can be prodded, cajoled and otherwise mobilized to restore sanity to the electricity industry,” Tanjusay said.