PECO: Blackouts used as black propaganda

(DG file)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

More Electric and Power Corp. (MEPC) used the two wide-scale power outages that hit Iloilo City and the rest of Panay Island on October 29 and October 30, 2019 as propaganda to taint the image of its rival firm, Panay Electric Co. (PECO).

According to PECO Head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho, the twin power outages were beyond the control of PECO and caused by still unidentified problems in the transmission lines of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

“The blackouts that happened on October 29 and 30 were because of factors beyond the control of PECO and yet MEPC used it to show us in a bad light by overlooking the facts and stating mere assumptions,” Cacho said in a statement issued on Monday.

The first blackout hit Iloilo, Guimaras, Aklan, Capiz, and portions of Negros Occidental at around 5:27 p.m. on Oct 29, 2019.

According to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), it activated its protection after monitoring a disturbance in the grid, causing sudden loss of power supply to distributors in Panay and Negros.

After NGCP activated its protection schemes, Global Business Power Corp. (GBP) said all coal-fired power plants of its subsidiary Panay Energy Development Corp (PEDC) tripped off at around 5:20 p.m.

Power supply was fully restored at past 10 p.m. Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, the Negros-Panay 138-kilovolt (kV) submarine cable tripped off causing another power outage in the provinces of Panay Island.

The central office of the Department of Energy is now investigating the two power outages and is yet to release an official statement.

More Electric and Power Corp. (MEPC), which now holds the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City, said that PECO committed grave disservice to consumers because of its failure to manage the power outage.

“First of all, we must clarify that PECO is a power distributor and not a power generator. We only distribute the power that is transmitted to us from the generators by NGPC,” Cacho stressed.

Cacho emphasized the statements issued by MEPC are not based on actual facts but rather an “attempt to do black propaganda against us most probably to hide the fact that they are currently incapable of serving Iloilo”.

“On this first day, contrary to what MEPC reported, it took only around six hours for power to be fully restored—the exact time needed to restart the coal plants. On October 30, there was again another power outage at 8 a.m. when the submarine cable from Negros to Panay tripped, causing destabilization in the grid thereby forcing power plants in Panay to shut down as a matter of protecting their facilities. However, contrary to what was published in the papers, NGPC did not restore power after 30 minutes,” he said.

According to Cacho, they waited for the updates from NGCP to give them clearance to restore power.

“They only advised us that we can already restore power 11 hours after the power outage started. It was NGCP and not our supplier who held back the clearance to restore because they had to stabilize the supply of the grid. Even then, we already started to implement rotating brownouts early on, contrary to what MEPC claimed, but prioritized the residential areas that do not have generator sets,” he furthered.

MEPC has criticized PECO for the power outages emphasizing that it could have implemented “rotating brownouts” in Iloilo City to ease the inconvenience caused by the blackout.

“PECO could have scheduled or rotated brownouts among its feeders so that one area will not suffer from almost 12 hours of blackout. That’s a standard practice among distribution utilities. Had PECO implemented the rotating brownouts, there will be some semblance of justice to the consumers. By the next billing cycle, consumers who endured 12 hours of blackout will pay the same rates imposed on consumers who had power last Wednesday. Maybe this is the result of experienced personnel leaving the company or being assigned to departments where they don’t belong,” MEPC added.

The Razon-led firm also questioned PECO’s failure to procure backup or reserve sources that can be readily dispatched during outages.

While it welcomes the fact that PECO has embedded sources in its franchise area, MEPC pointed out that having multiple energy sources is the most ideal setup in the power industry sector.

The two power firms are currently locked in court battles in an attempt to distribute power in Iloilo City.

After securing its congressional franchise, MORE Power filed an expropriation case against PECO pursuant to the provisions of RA 11212, particularly on the power of eminent domain.

Iloilo RTC Branch 37 Presiding Judge Yvette Go granted MORE’s application for a writ of possession (WOP) against PECO’s assets.

Right after the decision, Go inhibited herself from the case after PECO’s plea and the case was lodged into RTC Branch 35 presided by Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular.

Recently, MORE Power filed a motion to inhibit Amular from the ongoing expropriation case after claims that his remarks during previous hearings showed bias and partiality against MORE Power.