Sunday, 14 March 2010

Palace sets aside $100m for generators in Mindanao

Joyce Pangco Pañares
Manila Standard

MACTAN—President Gloria Arroyo said Friday government banks could make $100 million available to Mindanao firms who will lease generators to produce more electricity and ease the power shortage on the island.

The Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines would make the money available to companies who would produce an extra 160 megawatts in Mindanao, she said.

“We will allow the private sector to connect to the national grid so we can use their embedded generating capacity,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mindanao has been suffering daily power outages because most of its hydroelectric plants have been made idle by a drought brought by El Niño.

But with Mindanao under a state of calamity, local government units may now tap their calamity fund, equivalent to 5 percent of their share of taxes, to give cash and food subsidies to farmers affected by the dry spell, Mrs. Arroyo said.

She has also ordered the National Disaster Coordinating Council and the Energy Department to implement emergency measure—including rolling blackouts—to ease the power deficiency in Mindanao, which reached 748 megawatts on Wednesday.

Manufacturing activity should be restricted to the off-peak hours of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., and mothballed diesel-fired power plants should be reactivated to produce extra power, Mrs. Arroyo said.

Meanwhile, Metro Manila suffered another round of rolling blackouts Friday as a result of a power deficiency in Luzon.

The power interruptions were the third for the week, although by comparison Mindanao has been hit harder and for more than a month.

Manila Electric Co., the country’s biggest power retailer, said a power shortage was to blame for the blackouts.

“We have a supply deficiency, and that’s why we resorted to [blackouts] for an hour to balance the system and ensure there will be power for the other areas,” Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said.

The rolling blackouts started north of Metro Manila in the morning and then spread to other areas.

National Grid Corp. said Luzon was short by 440 megawatts Friday, and the shutdown of a 250-megawatt plant contributed to the outages.

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