Powerless vs. power shortfalls


About the worst thing that the government can do whenever a massive power outage occurs is to announce that the reason for the brownout “is not known.”

It would be far better for the government to shut up and restore the lost power as early as possible, rather than appear helpless and unknowing over what is essentially a simple problem.

So it was yesterday, with large parts of Mindanao losing all electricity and the public being told that no one knew what caused the outage.

Power was lost then power was restored. It should have been the end of the story if the restoration was 100 percent, and the reason for the outage identified.

This did not happen. Instead, the public was left wondering what had happened.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) could not explain the sudden blackout which began shortly before 4 a.m.

The NGCP said electricity was restored in some areas – specifically Davao City, General Santos City, Zamboanga City, Pagadian City, Cagayan de Oro City and parts of Misamis Oriental province – five hours later, but a large part of Mindanao was still without power.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla was left having to make excuses and saying that he was still trying to figure out what went wrong.

It would have been better for the concerned authorities to say that they were looking into the cause and an official statement would be released as soon as all the facts are in.

In the meantime, we must take note that there are still many communities throughout the country, more so in Central Visayas, where electricity has not been restored after last year’s super typhoon Yolanda and the killer earthquake before that.
This, of course, is inexcusable.

While power distribution is generally in the hands of the private sector, the national government regulates the operations of the companies that supply electricity to homes, offices and factories.

Among the conditions of granting them franchises is that if power is lost for whatever reason, it must be restored as soon as possible.

Obviously, this has not been the case for the communities still left in the dark long after the natural calamities that caused the breakdown have been relegated to distant memory.

The Department of Energy must take the brunt of the blame for so many communities still being powerless.

Short-term  power outages similar to what happened yesterday occur often enough. For the most part, these can be explained away as being technical in nature. A major line may trip or a supplier may be unable to deliver as much power as it should.

In some extreme cases, terrorist activity is blamed when some armed group decides to fell the distribution lines, but these are always local in nature.

We have to hope that the unexpected power outage in Mindanao is not an omen of similar outages in other parts of the country. We do not want to be told that because the rate increase sought by this or that power distributor was denied, the public will be held hostage to supply shortfalls.

Filipino consumers deserve better.


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