LAWMAKERS on Tuesday asked President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the entire Eastern Visayas under a state of calamity as the region continues to grapple with the devastation wreaked by the strong earthquakes that has left millions of residents without power.
The 6.5 magnitude temblor that hit Leyte on July 6 wrecked the Tongonan geothermal plant, the regions primary source of power.
The 5.4 magnitude aftershock on July 10 also damaged the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ transmission lines that could have enabled the region to get its power supply from Cebu and the Bicol Region.
Representatives Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar and Edgar Sarmiento of Samar appealed to the President to place the region under state of calamity to facilitate the release of funds.
“We could have imported power supply from Cebu, but that power supply cannot be distributed because NGCP’s transmission lines are not working anymore due to aftershock. This has impactful implications. For one, fisherfolk can’t fish because there’s no ice [to preserve it]due to absence of power supply. Commercial establishments such as hotels, restaurants, banks are left in the dark,” Evardone told reporters.
“Another problem is that our biggest industry is manufacturing, mainly copra. The copra industry is down and if the power supply does not resume immediately, people will lose their jobs. That’s why we lawmakers in the region agreed to appeal to the President to put Region 8 under state of calamity,” Evardone said.
A region in state of calamity is entitled to subsidy from the national government’s calamity fund allocation.
Evardone cited government data that the region is losing P300 million to P500 million a day because of the absence of electricity.
Eastern Visayas is composed of Biliran, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar, Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte, Ormoc City in Leyte and Tacloban City in Leyte.
“People can’t buy basic goods because there’s no electricity. By putting the region under state of calamity, the Executive can promptly intervene by ordering the rapid deployment of power barges and generators and subsidize its cost,” Evardone stressed.
Region 8’s power supply requirement is at 210 megawatts (MW) per day.
The NGCP, Evardone said, has initially offered 50 MW of power supply to be divided among eight electric cooperatives.
Evardone said there are two available power barges in Iloilo that can be tapped but these will not be enough to provide the power needs of the region.
“That’s why we are hoping that the NGCP can immediately provide subsidy since the problem is on their transformers (transmission lines). As it is, such action should be approved by the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission). If we are under state of calamity, the processes will be speedy,” the lawmaker said.