Every election cycle, voters and groups are up in arms to raise concerns about our country’s power supply. They fear that fraud, hacking, or cheating may happen if there will be a shortage in electricity during the May 9 national elections. And in a hotly contested election such as this one, a brownout is the last thing that our country needs.
With this, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner George Garcia called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to assure the public that there would be sufficient and reliable power supply for the upcoming elections.
Worry not, assured the DOE, in response to the Comelec and to assuage the uneasiness felt by the public The agency sees no shortage in generation reserves during the first weeks of May — a crucial time not only because electricity is needed to power the voting machines and light up the polling centers, but also to transmit election data, because again, power is needed to turn on the internet and WiFi.
The concerns of the public were not unfounded. In a report, the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) said that electricity demand in Luzon, the country’s main economic center, has peaked in March 2022 and surpassed pre-pandemic demand levels for the same month in 2019. The group concluded that this was largely due to the start of the dry season and the increased level of economic activity all over the country as restrictions have been lifted.
This same observation was also seconded by another group, the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), which published a report called “Luzon Power Outlook: Determining the Adequacy of Power Supply for April to June 2022.” In it, the group warned that there may be “possible blackouts over the Luzon grid in the second quarter as it anticipated a deficit of 1,335MW in the country’s electricity supply.”
Amid these alarming observations by two independent groups, the DOE remained unfazed. DOE Director for Electric Power Industry Management Bureau Mario Marasigan cited the updated power outlook for the Luzon grid of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and said that "it is unlikely that power outages will happen during the election period." Also on hand to assure the public is DOE Senior Undersecretary and Chairperson of the Energy Task Force Election Felix William Fuentebella, who said that he is confident that the country will not experience any brownouts during elections, and that the agency is ready to immediately respond to any power-related emergencies.
These continuing assurances were done by DOE since last year and announced regularly to inform the public and the media of the power supply situation in our country. At this time, when it is only a month away from the elections, the DOE should find more ways and announce in more media outlets and online platforms its updates on the power situation. It pays to be more transparent with data and “repetitive” in updates so there will be less blaming when things turn awry.
Though Filipinos are generally pragmatic, there are still fears of sabotage and unforeseen circumstances that may thwart the holding of an orderly election and the smooth counting of the results. Past election frauds and deceptions still haunt a lot of voters — and they don’t want a repeat of that in the coming elections. If voters are disenfranchised because of a brownout, kept hidden in the dark, and could smell even a whiff of cheating, it would be inevitable to see protests on the streets as the majority will not accept the election results. And this, for our country's sake, is something that must be avoided at all costs.