Friday, April 23, 2010

Zamboanga residents oppose hike in power rates

Workers from the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative fix a line in the village of Tumaga. Residents have strongly opposed proposals by the local electric cooperative to hike power rates to be able to pay at least 20 modular generators it plans to lease to augment electricity demand in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / April 23, 2010) – Local residents are strongly opposing a proposal by the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative to raise power rates so it can pay for generator sets it plans to lease.

Representatives from the business sector also opposed the hike and told a public hearing by the Energy Regulatory Commission here that raising power rates could make it more difficult for consumers to pay.

The electric cooperative said it plans to lease at least 20 modular generators to augment power supply in Zamboanga City. Those opposed to the proposal to hike power rates said if the lease of the modular generator sets pushes through, consumers will have to pay additional P3 pesos per kilowatt hour in the next 18 months.

The Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative is currently charging its residential consumers P5.94 per kilowatt hour and P5.41 on commercial consumers while industrial consumers are paying P5.50 per kilowatt hour.

Zamboanga is experiencing as much as 6 hours of blackout every day the past months because of low water levels in hydro power plants in Mindanao supplying electricity to many areas in the region.

A local newspaper on Friday also quoted Reynerio Ramos, the manager of the local electric cooperative, as saying that if their proposal to lease modular generators is disapproved by the Energy Regulatory Commission then the power outages will continue until 2016.

But many residents are opposing the proposed hike and would rather wait until power supply returns to normal.

Betty Marquez, a spokeswoman for the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, earlier said there is also a plan to put up a coal-fired power plant to augment the increasing power requirement in Zamboanga City.

Marquez said the daily power consumption of Zamboanga City is about 78 megawatts and at present the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines is supplying only half of the total requirements of the local electric cooperative because of the El Nino weather phenomenon which is affecting the whole country.

El Nino is associated with floods, droughts and other weather disturbances in many regions of the world, which vary with each event. The Philippines like any other developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected.

Marquez said the low water level at Lake Lanao is also aggravating the supply of electricity in Mindanao because it affects the hydropower plant in Iligan City.

Of Zamboanga City’s 98 villages, at least 90 percent have rotational blackout lasting from one hour to as long as six hours every day from the previous two hours.

Marquez said the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines which supplies electricity simply cannot cope up with the power demands in Mindanao. President Gloria Arroyo last month declared a power crisis in Mindanao.

Many commercial establishments, including smaller stores and private offices, in Zamboanga City also resorted in buying its own gasoline or diesel generators whose prices ranged from P5,000 to P500,000.

Some local politicians and residents were also urging the local government to provide funding for the generators.

Zamboanga has more than P2 billion in banks and officials were boasting the huge amount was the result of a good fiscal management, a view strongly opposed by politicians who said the money should have been spent on important projects such as the city’s integrated bus terminal, health centers and electrification and potable water system for far-flung villages. (Mindanao Examiner)

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