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Siargao, unplugged, still draws ‘em

WHEN a couple of surfers went to Siargao, Surigao del Norte, in Mindanao on April 1 for five days of wave-hopping, the lights in their room went out just as a bellhop was showing it to them. The resort owner explained that the power supply had been intermittent, but told them not to worry because he had a generator.

Still, power did not return that day, and two days later news spread in General Luna town, the Philippines’ surfing capital, that the power outage could last up to a month. The Siargao Electric Cooperative blamed the power outage to a damaged portion of a 9-kilometer underwater cable, and though the cable was fixed Wednesday, officials say Mindanao will still be having rolling blackouts as a result of the national power crisis.

Mindanao has been suffering power outages as a result of the drought that has shut down the island’s hydroelectric plants. As a result, generators have been a lifesaver for Siargao’s resort operators, but Gerry Deagan of Sagana Resort says running one costs P2,000 a day, about three times the cost of electricity from Siargao Electric.

Lilibeth, a manager at Cherinicole Beach Resort, says generators are unreliable because they produce only enough power to run lights, electric fans and refrigerators. But the guests of Kalinaw Resort are not affected by any power outages because it has a powerful generator that the owner had bought only last month.

“I don’t think it’s the same case in other resorts because a generator is expensive,” co-owner Fred Debacker said.

Nonetheless, people go to Siargao mainly to surf, and with or without electricity visitors are still pouring in to enjoy the island’s excellent waves. Once, Deagan says, one family left early because their baby kept on crying as a result of the heat. Another time, some Australians complained because they had had to drink warm beer.

The resorts with generators complain about the high price of running them, but most of the others have no choice about the matter because they have none, and some have resorted to cutting their rates to continue attracting visitors.

“Many of the cheaper resorts have no generators, and that turns off visitors who had planned their vacations for months in advance,” Deagan said.

“Most of these people only get a few weeks of vacation every year. Are they going to come back? Some will, but some certainly won’t.”

But Debacker was optimistic. “I think this is a temporary problem that people will forget after a while. I don’t think it will affect the tourism industry in the long run,” he said. -Ed Biado, ManilaStandard Today

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