By Ado Paglinawan
Some 339,000 households from 90 barangays in 16 local government units in Luzon lost electricity last June 1, sending Senator Christopher “Bong” Go to appeal to the Department of Energy and concerned electric providers to address power shortages that may add burden to the hardships experienced by Filipinos amid the ongoing pandemic.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, called for senate investigations through S.R. No. 740 as he stressed the need to hold the Department of Energy (DOE) accountable for its “failure to address power supply shortages since 2016.”
Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao, for his part, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, president of the ruling PDP-Laban party, unleashed withering jabs at the party’s vice chair, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, for attending to politics before the power problems currently hounding Luzon Island.
“It is saddening to think that some of our officials, who are supposed to attend to the situation, to our problems, are prioritizing politics,” said the 42-year-old eight-division world boxing champion in a privilege speech at the Senate on Wednesday.
Senator Go stressed the need to ensure continuous power supply to secure vaccines stored in cold storage facilities as warmer temperature and unplanned outage of several power plants could cripple supply in the power grid.
A few weeks ago, 348 vials of Sinovac vaccines were deemed no longer usable for vaccination after they were left in a freezer without electricity for more than two days in Makilala, North Cotabato.
“Kahit isang minuto, dapat walang brownout sa panahong ito, at dapat walang masira ni isang bakuna,” he added.
Senator Gatchalian pointed out that there were even two vaccination centers in Valenzuela City that experienced power interruptions.
He said the DOE should ensure the quality, reliability, security, and affordability of electric power supply in the country.
“This is a critical situation and I would like to request the Department of Energy to get all hands-on deck especially in the next coming days because from the forecast that I am seeing, there will be a problem of load dropping in the next eight days,” Gatchalian added.
Senator Go, meanwhile, stressed the urgent need to address and prevent blackouts, saying, “Hindi po report lang ang kailangan natin dito. Kailangan po maaddress kaagad ito at maagapan po. Mahirap pong magka-brownout sa panahong ito, lalung lalo na po na patuloy tayong nagbabakuna.”
“Wala pong bakuna na dapat masira dito, we cannot afford na masira ang bakuna dahil alam nating pinaghirapan po natin ang mga bakunang ito. Alam ninyo, sobrang limitado ang bakuna, agawan sa ibang bansa,” he added.
Last May 31, Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said power supply was severely affected by several power plants on outage. He added that a higher heat index resulted in the increase in energy demand.
Cusi, who sits as vice chairman of PDP-Laban, presided over the ruling party’s national council meeting on Monday in Cebu, when the council adopted a resolution calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to run for vice president in the 2022 elections.
The meeting coincided with the raising of red and yellow alerts over Luzon due to thin power supply caused by planned and unplanned outages of several power plants.
This prompted Senator Pacquiao to render a privilege speech asking if the government should brace for bigger power supply problems. He also asked for transparency and accountability about preparations, if any the Department of Energy which Cusi heads, had done to address the problems due to the surge in power supply demand.
“This is a recurring problem. We cannot rely on the same strategies to solve the problem of the rapidly growing demand for power supply,” said Pacquiao, as he cited the need to depart from old paradigms and to innovate and secure renewable energy sources.
If he were the president, Senator Pacquiao said he will remove Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi over the power interruptions being experienced now in the country, “Palitan kita dahil maraming mamumuno dyan.”
In other countries, he added, he knows government officials to voluntarily resign when faced with a big problem of this extent.