House inquiry exposes serious power supply issues

Published October 12, 2021, 3:53 PM

by Manila Bulletin

The House of Representatives has uncovered glaring power supply issues affecting the country.

The Lower House Committee on Energy, led by its chairman Deputy Majority Leader and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Macapagal Arroyo, on Tuesday, Oct.12, tackled House Resolution Mo. 2206 which called for an Inquiry on the Increase in electricity rates of electric cooperatives in Negros and Iloilo provinces.

HR 2206 was introduced by Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco “Kiko” Benitez, Negros Occidental 6th District Rep. Genaro Alvarez, Jr., Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Lorenz Defensor, Iloilo 2nd District Rep. Michael Gorriceta, and Iloilo City Rep. Julienne “Jam” Baronda.

Aside from Arroyo, also giving their remarks and comments during the hearing were Benitez, Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (PHILRECA) Partylist Rep. Presley De Jesus, Catanduanes Rep. Hector Sanchez, Negros Occidental 2nd District Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva, Deputy Speaker and SAGIP Partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) Partylist Rep. Sergio Dagooc, RECOBODA Partylist Rep. Godofredo “Fred” Guya, Minority Leader and ABANG LINGKOD Partylist Rep. Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano, Negros Occidental 4th District Rep. Juliet Marie Ferrer, and Bacolod City Rep. Greg Gasataya.

“We need to ensure a dependable, accessible, affordable and sustainable supply of power to all our consumers. I hope that we can also explore potential solutions not only for short term, midterm but also longer term solutions for electricity and power,” said Benitez, who cited the need to harness alternative renewable energy, enhancing grid interconnectivity and flexibility, investing in battery storage systems, and the use of smart and micro grids to help ensure adequate power supply and stabilize power rates.

Benitez also questioned the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) regarding its competitive selection process and power supply agreements.

Gracing the hearing as resource speakers were ERC Chairperson and CEO Agnes Devanadera, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) President and CEO Anthony Almeda, NGCP Engineering Project Management Department Head Randy Galang, NGCP Visayas Systems Planning head Christian Ereño, NGCP spokesperson Atty. Cynthia Alabanza, Department of Energy (DOE) Director Mario Marasigan, and Northern Negros Electric Cooperative (NONECO) and Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) General Manager Atty. Danny Pondevilla.

Devanadera shed light on the cause of the increase of electricity rates and the actions taken by ERC. She also answered queries regarding refund of charges made, issues with power suppliers as well as power supply agreements.

Almeda answered questions on NGCP’s role on addressing power issues while Galang gave a presentation on the chronology of events that led to the power supply problem caused by the damage on a submarine cable.

Marasigan discussed the meetings with stakeholders, enhancement of transmission connection, exemptions given to power suppliers and renewable energy supply.

Pondevilla called on the need to fast track the transmission line of NGCP’s submarine cable, market intervention and new policies that should benefit consumers aside from addressing issues on CENECO.

Ereño, for his part, disclosed the 230kV interim energization scheme on its submarine cable between Cebu and Negros.

During the House hearing interpellation and manifestation, Marcoleta noted that the increase of electricity rates in Iloilo and Negros may also happen in other provinces while Dagooc questioned the DOE and NGCP on the effect of the electricity rate increase on the consumers and the congestion of power lines.

Guya queried on the repair of the transmission connection as well as the timeline for its completion.

Defensor, on the other hand, inquired on the submarine cable damage and power capacity contracts.

Sanchez asked about DOE’s plans for renewable energy sources while Ferrer inquired about the relief given to consumers who had been affected.

Paduano questioned DOE and ERC’s bidding process aside from demanding for the representation of local electric cooperatives and consumer groups.

Gasataya, on the other hand, cited the problems on transmission lines and power outages as well as the need for renewable energy sources.

Consumer groups led Power Watch Negros Advocates (PWNA) secretary-general Wennie Sancho, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Negros president Ariel Guides, national coordinator Nic Satur Jr. and Alliance of Concerned Transport in Occidental Negros (ACTION) chairperson Teddy Macainan gave their comments during the hearing.

Sancho slammed CENECO for violating the EPIRA law while Guides called for a review of the said law.

Satur Jr., meanwhile, requested that further hearings be conducted by the Lower House.

Macainan hit CENECO’s questionable contract extension. (Melvin Sarangay)