Gatchalian: NEA submitted ‘weak’ results on Palawan power outage probe

Win Gatchalian Senate

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is ‘not happy’ with the National Electrification Administration’s (NEA) preliminary investigation to look into the recurring power interruptions plaguing Palawan since January 2017.

Gatchalian, who is currently serving as the Senate energy committee chair, earlier ordered the government agency to probe the dubious outages in most PALECO’s (Palawan Electric Cooperative) franchise areas, said that the results and recommendations submitted to them were insufficient.

Di ako happy, preliminary lang yan, eh. (I’m not happy with the report, that’s just preliminary). NEA should start flexing its muscles. It only gave general recommendations, walang (no) sanctions,” Gatchalian told Rapper on Monday.

Based on the Senate’s findings earlier this month, PALECO’s customers experienced approximately 18 hours of power interruptions at least 9 times a month since the beginning of the year.

Affected areas and municipalities include Puerto Princesa City, Dumaran, El Nido (Bacuit), Roxas, San Vicente, Taytay, Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Narra, Quezon, Rizal (Marcos), Sofronio Española, Aborlan, Agutaya, Araceli, Cagayancillo, Cuyo, Magsaysay, and Balabac, the Senate finds.

The Senate also questioned why NEA did not impose penalties on electric cooperatives and power suppliers when it has the authority to do so.

What NEA did instead was the “continuous right-of-way clearing and vegetation management”, which both are already standard operating procedures, Gatchalian countered.

“Its recommendations are general and only operational — clearing vegetation, informing the public three days before the power interruption,” he said. “Dapat naman every day mo ‘yan ginagawa. (You should really do those things every day.) Ang babaw. (It’s shallow.) Medyo, for me, incomplete. (For me, it’s incomplete.)  It doesn’t go to the heart of the issue.”

After having initiated the dialogue in the growing crisis in the island, Gatchalian said he would now call for a full Senate investigation with more substantial results than what NEA delivered.

Earlier, the Senator said the Committee’s internal investigation showed that the power outage fiasco was coaxed by the failure of independent power producer (IPP) DMCI Power Corp. to distribute the 25-MW in its power supply requirement with PALECO, which the electric cooperative dismissed with inaction on said violation.

The Senate then ordered DMCI to submit a detailed action plan and timetable on the fulfillment of the supply agreement until August 11.

While the IPP agreed to comply with the government’s directive, it also pressed that it did not breach its contractual obligation with the PALECO.

“Our contractual obligation is to deliver 25 MW of electricity using thermal and diesel power plants. However, due to the continued opposition of certain stakeholders, we are unable to construct and operate the committed thermal facility, which would have effectively addressed the need for stable, reliable, and affordable power in the province,” DMCI Power said.

On the other hand, NEA told Rappler it is not under any sanction should they impose penalties on PALECO or other electric cooperatives. It is the responsibility of the Energy Regulatory Commission to answer those cases, it said.

“NEA will furnish a copy [of the report] to the ERC, with NEA’s recommendations, so that the latter may implement such penalties and sanctions they deem necessary and in order to avoid similar occurrences in the future,” Artis Nikki Tortola, NEA Deputy Administrator for technical services said in a statement to Rappler on Tuesday.