Now is the time to plan for summer’s problems

Published December 27, 2019, 12:13 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat


With the year ending, it is time for the various agencies of the government to take stock of all the problems they faced in 2019 and plan so that they will not be repeated in 2020.

One problem we had in 2019 was a series of red and yellow alerts as demand for electric power peaked in summer. Secretary of Energy Alfonso Cusi recalled that in the summer months of 2019, several power plants announced simultaneous shutdowns for annual checkups.

Several probes were undertaken, Secretary Cusi said, but the probing agencies never laid down their findings on what caused the plants to break down almost simultaneously from April to June. Because of the short power supply, some brownouts had to be scheduled in the Luzon power grid.

To avoid a repetition of this situation this year, Secretary Cusi said he has instructed all power distribution utilities, including Meralco, to ensure they have adequate supplies of electric power this coming summer. They must anticipate the need and contract for them, he said.

But the bigger problem in the summer of 2019 was the drop in the supply of water, so that Manila Water implemented a schedule of rationing water to households in Metro Manila’s east region. President Duterte himself, it may be recalled, angrily demanded why this was so.

Part of the reason, of course, was the inadequate rainfall in the country this year. There simply were not enough storms and typhoons that came our way this year, so that the water in Angat Dam, the principal source of water for Metro Manila, fell way below normal levels.

The crisis led to the decision to develop Wawa Dam as an additional source of water for Metro Manila. A bigger source could be the Kaliwa Dam but that plan is enmeshed in several problems, including the opposition of indigenous people whose communities would go under water if Kaliwa Dam is built. There are other proposals, including drawing water from Laguna de Bay and from deep wells.

We may not realize it but summer is only a few months away. The pleasant weather of the present season will soon give way to the heat of summer in March, April, and May.

The Department of Energy has already taken steps, including asking Meralco and other power distribution utilities to firm up contracts with power producers, so we will not have a repeat of the simultaneous power plant shutdowns of 2019. Why indeed do power plants schedule their annual shutdowns at the same time — and in summer when they are most needed?

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System should take similar steps this early to ensure that there will be not be another period of water rationing in the summer of 2020.