By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 13, 2017 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - An estimated three million people in Region 8 and Bohol will have to wait longer for power to be restored after transmission problems hampered electricity supply in quake-hit areas.
In a briefing yesterday, Department of Energy (DOE) Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella expressed the agency’s frustration at failing to meet the 10-day timeline set to restore power supply in earthquake-affected areas.
Based on the latest report from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), over 100 megawatts (MW) from Cebu, Luzon and the geothermal plants of Energy Development Corp. (EDC) cannot be supplied to the provinces hit by the recent magnitude 6.5 earthquake because of transformer problems in the Ormoc City substation.
“The problem lies in the transmission lines. Transformers 1 to 6 in the Ormoc substation were damaged by the magnitude 6.5 earthquake. That was supposed to deliver power towards the direction of Samar, Leyte and Bohol,” Fuentebella said.
He said NGCP is asking for three weeks to dismantle and relocate transformers from its Cebu substation to fix the transformers in the Ormoc facility.
In the meantime, EDC has committed to deliver 40 MW from its Tongonan geothermal power plant by July 19, originally set for July 16.
This is the earliest time power can be supplied to the three island provinces, but this is equivalent to only 14 percent of their total 291 MW requirement, Fuentebella said.
The 40-MW supply would be directed to government or commercial areas first to aid LGU disaster mitigating efforts and help consumers start to get back on track, the DOE official said.
Once NGCP completes fixing its Ormoc substation, an additional 120 MW can be supplied to the quake-hit provinces for a total supply of 160 MW or 55 percent of the total demand by end of July, he said.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi earlier set a 10-day timeline to restore power supply in Bohol and Region 8.
To temporarily fill the supply gap, the DOE is coordinating with the Regional Development Council of Region 8 and the local government unit in Bohol to look at getting capacity from the power barges of Phinma Energy Corp., Fuentebella said.
He said they are also in talks with the Department of National Defense for the immediate transfer of the power barges to the three island provinces.
Phinma Energy has three power barges acquired from government. Each barge is a 32-MW barge-mounted bunker-fired diesel generating power station with four eight-MW identical Hitachi-Sulzer diesel generator units.
Bohol, for its part, has been contracting emergency power supply on its own. Fuentebella said the island has received 10 MW from an embedded diesel plant and is expected to have 7.5 MW more from the 5-MW Hanopol hydropower plant and 2.5-MW Sevilla power plant.
State of calamity
Lawmakers in Samar whose districts have been affected by the magnitude 6.5 earthquake that rocked Ormoc, Leyte yesterday asked President Duterte to declare a state of calamity in the entire Region 8 or Eastern Visayas.
Reps. Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar) and Edgar Sarmiento (First District, Samar) told reporters in a news conference this would be in the best interest of the province, especially since restoration of power alone could take months, or by October this year.
“We’re asking Malacañang to declare a state of calamity in Region 8 because this problem has many implications. NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) has in fact estimated that about P300 million to P500 million is lost daily because there is no power, no business activity,” Evardone explained.
Aside from the enormity of the original July 6 tremor, aftershocks that reached up to magnitude 5.6 have also destroyed, if not severely damaged, the power transmitters of the NGCP, which only makes power distribution even more difficult.
Evardone disclosed that the manufacturing industry and the local copra business are down due to the absence of power, which is expected to take months considering the need for a substantial amount of electricity for industrial and residential needs.
“If there is a state of calamity, the Palace, the DOE, DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and many other agencies can suspend any price hikes as a result of the situation,” Evardone said, adding government can send “power barges or generator sets” if only to help industries resume operations.
For his part, Sarmiento said the state of calamity is imperative so as to give the local officials, as well as residents, a “holistic approach” on solving the problem. “We’re looking at October before power can be restored. That’s too long.”
In a related development, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo proposed the creation of a commission to conduct an audit and assessment on all government buildings and public infrastructure to ascertain their earthquake readiness.
Castelo, chairman of the House of Representatives’ committee on Metro Manila development, said President Duterte through an executive order could create such a commission.
The proposed Public Infrastructure Assessment Commission shall conduct a thorough assessment on the structural integrity of all public buildings and infrastructure as part of ensuring the country’s readiness for the “Big One.”
“The series of earthquakes we have been experiencing had shown that some government buildings and public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, airports, ports and school buildings, are not structurally sound to withstand a magnitude 7.2 earthquake,” Castelo noted.
The senior administration lawmaker said government should be able to identify now those that cannot pass the test of structural integrity so that retrofitting can be done before the “Big One” occurs. – With Delon Porcalla