By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) will assess the impact of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) enforced by local government units (LGUs) to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the power sector.
MinDA Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro said the agency would examine how Mindanao’s power industry was “keeping up with the current situation, noting the island’s distinct power structure which is slightly different from the interconnected network of Visayas and Luzon.”
“Part of the monitoring currently being undertaken by MinDA includes possible impact of the current situation to the power sector in Mindanao,” he said.
He added the power structure of Mindanao was slightly different from that of Luzon, as most of the electric distribution was being undertaken by electric cooperatives, especially in rural areas.
Montenegro added the MinDA, which heads the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC), needs to know the impact of the implementation of the ECQ to determine the measures needed to support the power industry in this time of crisis.
Created through Executive Order 81, the MPMC is composed of Department of Energy, Energy Regulatory Commission, National Electrification Administration, National Power Corporation, Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM), and Mindanao Electric Power Alliance and Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives as members.
He added MinDA has seen a reduction of power demand by around 35-percent in urban centers following the implementation of lockdown and suspension of operations of major establishments and industries.
But he added the estimated reduction did not reflect real demand for power in the provinces in Mindanao whose consumers are mostly served by the electric cooperatives.
“Households account for majority of load users’ profiles in most areas served by electric cooperatives, and with the current stay at home mode there’s a possibility for consumption uptick especially with extended use of electric-powered household items such as cooking appliances, airconditioning system, home entertainment equipment and other electronic gadgets being used to connect with others,” he added.
He added MinDA chairman Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol has submitted a proposal to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) seeking its assistance in carrying out the impact study.
Several consumers in some areas in Cotabato province complained about the significant increases in their electricity bills from Cotabato Electric Cooperative (COTELCO)-PPALMA.
In a letter addressed to COTELCO-PPALMA general manager Engr. Felix C. Canja dated May 6, Municipality of Pigcawayan Mayor Jean Dino D. Roquero said his office had received complaints from power consumers regarding a “significant increase in their consumption or bills.”
In a radio interview over Radyo Bandera MyFM Midsayap on Wednesday, Canja explained that the increase in bills could have been caused by the increase in electricity consumption of the households since many of them stayed inside their homes 24/7 during the ECQ period, increasing their demand for power to run the appliances, including televisions, electric fans, and air conditioning units.
He added the actual meter reading was only done for the month of April where COTELCO-PPALMA saw a sudden spike in consumption by households for almost two months since March.
To lessen the burden, Canja assured consumers that they could pay in four installments without surcharge or penalty if they could not it via one-time payment.