Luzon brownouts still possible until early July with thin power reserves, Gatchalian warns

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 9) — Rotating brownouts may persist for Luzon residents until next month, Senate energy committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian warned.

"In the forecast by the month of June until the early part of July, we’ll have very narrow margin of electricity – meaning there’s still a threat of brownouts," Gatchalian said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday.

Residents of Metro Manila and provinces in Luzon experienced rotating power outages from Monday to Wednesday last week after multiple coal-fired power plants went on emergency shutdown.

The Luzon grid was stripped of as much as 4,064 megawatts (MW) of supply.

READ: Cusi apologizes for blackouts caused by power deficit

In the forum, Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said while peak power demand occurs during the summer as higher temperatures come with greater consumption, the country may see an uptick in power requirements during the Christmas season.

"The catalyst for reviving the economy is electricity and without that, we’re looking at a very dismal performance," Gatchalian added.

The Senate will probe last week's power outages on Thursday. Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, who heads the House energy panel, said regulators and private players resorted to finger-pointing in last week's hearings in Batasan. 

Gatchalian noted that it appears that the Department of Energy (DOE) lacked foresight regarding the country's electricity needs.

"DOE is tasked to make sure that we have constant supply of electricity and what happened last week is, for me, a failure of implementation and enforcement," the senator said.

"If you don’t impose and implement these policies, they are as good as toilet paper... If these are implemented and the players are held into account, I don't think we would see any brownouts this year or in the next few years."

Red tape also stands in the way of attracting more investments to build new power plants, Gatchalian pointed out, which takes years from construction to power generation.

RELATED: Group warns of further blackouts amid short supply, calls for more renewable power sources