Businesses bemoan daily blackouts in Caraga

Small and mid-sized businesses – including street vendors – have expressed alarm over daily blackouts that began early this month in the Caraga region.

Cold storage facilities have become useless since these lacked electricity to preserve fish and other aqua marine products, vendors said.

These same complaints were echoed by ice plant owners who have failed to serve their customers due to the daily blackouts.

Traders have even fallen prey to thieves, who have taken advantage of darkness to steal merchandise, a Boholano trader who managed two stalls at the Butuan City Langihan Public Market said.

As a result, local electric cooperatives – particularly the Agusan del Norte Electric Cooperative – have been criticized for reportedly failing to explain the cause of daily brownouts in the northeastern Mindanao region.

In Surigao City, the Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. and Surigao Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. summoned officials of local power coop Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Surneco) through a forum held at Tavern Hotel and Convention Center.

The two chambers also invited officials from National Grid Corporation of the Philippine (NGCP) District office here in Butuan City headed by District Head Manuel Hamoy, Jr.

Privately-led NGCP runs the Philippines’ power grid that dispatches electricity from one area to another.

However, representatives of the National Power Corp. (Napocor) – the country’s largest power producer – “refused to attend the forum due to a conflict of schedule," Cresol Mantong, secretariat member of the Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. told GMANews.TV in a text message.

“The NGCP District Office in Butuan City claimed they will be conducting their own forum on Monday," Mantong’s text message added.

Despite the failure of Napocor and NGCP to attend the forum, it will still proceed as scheduled.

A letter from the NGCP’s Mindanao Systems Operations (MSO) addressed to different electric cooperatives in the Caraga region contained a schedule of daily blackouts that will start February 1 until February 28, 2010.

Signed by Maximo K. Adiong, who heads the NGCP MSO, the letter said that the daily blackouts will continue if the power generation remains insufficient.

Among the reasons cited were the unavailability of power plants which were shut down due to preventive maintenance.

In the meantime, local government officials of Caraga were blamed for “failing" to “look for alternative power sources that should have been done long time ago," said Atty. Teodoro Rosales Emboy, who is running as an independent mayoralty bet of Butuan City. - RJAB Jr./BS, GMANews.TV

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