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Businesses losing tens of millions to blackouts

By Eugenio Lira, Jr.

Surigao City – Tens of millions per month were lost by business establishments in Surigao del Norte which were affected by the recurrent power blackouts which hit Mindanao for several months already until now.

Willie Gan, president of Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Inc. (SCCI), told Manila Standard the power shortage suffered by businesses had adversely affected the local economy particularly the business activity, employment aspect and the peace and order situation due to increase in robbery and theft incidents.

“The province is experiencing at least four to five hours of rotating blackouts daily due to power load deficiency. Instead of the ideal 24 megawatts daily power supply, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has only given 16 megawatts to Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative (SURNECO) for them to distribute to the power-consuming public. To fill the power shortage, the electric cooperative has bought a daily supply of 5 megawatts from Therma Marine, Inc. (TMI), a power supply barge located in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte, at a higher cost compared to the price of NGCP. This means an additional financial burden to the power-consuming public,” Gan disclosed.

Engr. Alex Diaz, maintenance distribution engineer of SURNECO, said the current power blackouts or ‘power curtailments’ implemented in the province were made upon the advice of NGCP due to ‘Generation Deficiency’ in Mindanao which reached 240 megawatts. A megawatt is equivalent to one million kilowatts of electricity.

“For March 19, NGCP only supplied about 13.5 megawatts for the day instead of the usual 17.8 megawatts it committed for the whole month,” Diaz said.

“So, for that day, we implemented ‘voluntary load curtailments’ in select areas in the province to evenly distribute the power deficiency among our consumers and keep our electric facility going,” he clarified.

Gan said that Butuan City and Agusan del Norte suffered less from the blackouts because they were able to get a ‘backup power allocation’ of 10 megawatts, plus an additional of 5 megawatts during peak seasons, from the TMI.

He said SCCI has 107 member-establishments and directly employs more than 15,000 workers.

On Friday, DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas assured members of the Regional Development Council of Caraga Region, chaired by Surigao Norte Governor Sol Matugas, that he would lobby and make representation with the Department of Energy to help solve the power shortage problem in Mindanao.

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